Sometimes you root for the protagonists in a horror movie, sometimes you root for the killer(s). However, it's rare to want more screen time on both sides of that equation, and that's exactly what The Funhouse Massacre did for me.
The premise sounds familiar and even a little cheesy, with mass murderers escaping an asylum and killing people in a nearby haunted funhouse, but the team manage to make it feel fresh and even inspired in its presentation and theatrics. This particular funhouse contains areas themed after each of the killers' exploits that got them locked up in the first place. When they "relieve" the hired help portraying them and take up the mantle themselves, the guests are none the wiser and can't stop commenting on how realistic the murders seem that are happening right before their eyes.
First we have the cast of monsters -- there's the Kool-Aid cult leader Mental Manny (Jere Burns), the sadistic dentist Dr. Suave (Sebastian Siegel), deranged Rocco the Clown (Mars Crain), unassuming Animal the Cannibal (E.E. Bell), the creepy but methodical Taxidermist (Clint Howard), and the deliciously devious Dollface (Candice De Visser), who are being managed in one form or another by the asylum warden played by Robert Englund. Throughout the course of the film, all their backstories are explained in pretty good detail, and each stands apart from the next in memorable ways, even Rocco, who I'm pretty sure never said a word the entire movie.
Enter the local cast of stereotypes, including tough-as-nails Sheriff Kate (Scottie Thompson) and bumbling Deputy Doyle (Ben Begley, who also wrote the movie), socially awkward nerd Morgan (Matt Angel) and his quirky/adorable love interest Laurie (co-writer Renee Dorian), Christina (Chasty Ballesteros) costumed as "Sexy Hillary Clinton," and captain of the varsity squad Jason (Sterling Sulieman). They and their friends all in one form or another wind up in the clutches of the whackjobs who've taken over the macabre maze. However, the movie doesn't for one second take itself seriously, with comedy beats occurring at regular, well-timed intervals.
Much of the violence is implied in the first two-thirds of the movie, with the gloves really coming off for the final act. Effects are well produced and executed (pun intended), the dialogue is smart and snappy, the characters are likeable and laughable on both sides of the good/evil divide, and scenes don't feel forced, padded, or overstay their welcome. The last couple of scenes give me hope that a sequel might grace us with its presence one day, bringing back some of these mayhem-makers for another go-round.
For how little screen time she gets, Dollface just about steals the show. Could be her likeness to DC Comics' Harley Quinn, who has been everywhere in the nerd world lately it seems. Candice De Visser delivers Dollface as a mischievous, faux-innocent, sexy plaything that will literally break your heart for the fun of it if you give her the chance.
The steady flow of worthwhile horror-comedy flicks over the last few years has been impressive, and The Funhouse Massacre is another great entry in the genre alongside other smirking slashers like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Cabin in the Woods, Shaun of the Dead, and Zombeavers. If you're a fan of '80s and '90s slasher movies in general, The Funhouse Massacre is a very respectable and enjoyable homage to and lampoon of decades of movies that might've taken themselves a little too seriously.