Haunted attractions are big business in the US around Halloween time, each one trying to outdo the other. In the countryside, a new one called “Land of Illusion” decides to use local killers and their stories to up their scare factor. Little do they know, the six maniacs escaped the asylum housing them and find their way to the fun house and bloody, bloody mayhem ensues.
The story here is a twist on haunted mazes with a touch of urban legends and a dash of sheer insanity. It takes the usual killer on the loose story and pumps up the violence by multiplying them by six. The idea of the six killers could have been muddled but the early exposure in the opening with Robert Englund makes each of the killers have their own defined personalities and ways. Ben Begley and Renee Dorian did well to write this part in as it brings more to the story and fear without feeling it being over-explained through the usual flashbacks. Of course casting Englund in the asylum warden part telling these stories was a good move.
Almost any horror fan will love listening to him tell these background stories like campfires tales and they will not feel tedious. Once the film gets to its first kill, not in a gory flashback, and moves to the group of young adults being taken to the slaughter, the fun really starts. Yes, the young characters are fairly cliché, but they still are enjoyable to watch run for their lives and get killed. These kids, or perhaps college students are not insanely grating and don’t spout too many idiocies. They do however give a few current pop culture references that will age the film badly in just a couple of years.
This story and those characters are directed by Andy Palmer who does a good job at wrangling this many people, killers and victims, showing their personalities and giving them the right amount of screen time to be interesting. The film is kept moving at a good pace, very few scenes overstaying their welcome.
The cast here is pretty big with six killers and multiple victims/victim-to-bes, so of course some will get lost in the shuffle or may take a few watches before they can be fully appreciated. Some standouts do appear from the crowded story. First, of course, is Robert Englund as the warden who brings the creep factor while telling the killers’ stories one by one. As one of the killers, and practically unrecognizable, is Clint Howard giving a nicely demented performance.
Another killer who caught this reviewers’ eye is Rocco, played by Mars Crain, which may be due in part to sheer size or because of his mostly physical presence here. Someone use him for a lead in a feature, he would make a great slasher on his own. As part of the potential victims and heroes, Matt Angel as Morgan gives a really good performance and so does Scottie Thompson as the conflicted sheriff Kate. Writer Ben Begley as Deputy Doyle offers good stress relief with his funny, not too bright, yet charming performance.
Supporting the characters and story here, as in most horror fare, are the special effects and sound design. The special effects are gross, so they are well done by Robert Kurtzman and his crew. The only nitpicking here is that some of the blood looks too liquid, not viscous enough. Most of the film looks to boast practical effects which definitely add to the scares as the cast and crew has to deal with them for real and not just imagine them. The sound design for this film adds to the effects by being all kinds of gooey and good. It does not over take any scenes and is not so low that the score covers it up. You can hear skin ripping open, bones breaking, gore being messed with, all of which can have a more visceral effect than what is on screen sometimes.
“The Funhouse Massacre” is a fun Halloween Time film with lots of kills, gore, and decent acting to go with it all. With six crazed killers, it could have easily have become a mess, but it works here. Six times the killers, six times more ways to die.
Out on Blu Ray on June 7th, 2016.