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Review: Funhouse (2019)

If there’s anything worse than reality TV shows, it may be horror films about reality TV shows. The recent Human Zoo was a reminder of that, in case you managed to forget the likes of Cruel World or Reality Kills. And that’s leaving out all the found footage “ghost hunter” films. I’d have to go back as far as Kolobos or $la$hers to find decent ones. Writer/director Jason William Lee (The Evil In Us, Alphamem) gives it a try with Funhouse, a deadly riff on shows like Big Brother.

Take a group of D list celebrities from around the world including Kasper Nordin (Valter Skarsgård, Lords of Chaos) the ex-husband of pop star Darla Drake (Kylee Bush, Dead of Night) and former co-star of their reality show. There’s also celebrity gossip blogger Jimena Torres (Gigi Sol Guerrero, Puppet Killer) and former MMA fighter James ‘Headstone’ Malone (Christopher Gerard, The Tormenting, Arrow), eight in total. Lock them in a mansion loaded with cameras streaming their every move 24/7 with no commercials or interruptions. And the one who avoids getting voted out gets five million dollars.

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Not a bad deal right? That’s what they think until the first of them is voted out of the house. And, as it turns out, out of existence.

The plot isn’t exactly new, and if there was any doubt about the losers’ fate, Funhouse gives that away in the prologue. The billionaire behind the show, Nero (Jerome Velinsky, In Her Skin) sits and watches a woman beat someone to death. And reminds her she needs to cut out their heart to collect her money. So it’s absolutely no surprise when people start dying, mostly by way of rigged “challenges”.

If you’re sensing a touch of the Saw franchise, congratulations, you survive this immunity challenge. Only here Jigsaw has an animated Panda and a bunch of heavily armed panda masked goons instead of a puppet. He could at least have gotten them masks as creepy as the one in Pandamonium.

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Some of the deaths, such as being lowered feet first into a vat of acid and an updated version of the rack, are nasty. Others, though, are stupid. Give two people axes and let them swing at each other in pitch blackness, stupid. However, much of that is counteracted by lots of whining, bitching and backstabbing. And, since with one exception we know almost nothing about any of these people, it’s hard to sympathize. Or even care for that matter.

Of course, there is a subplot about the police trying to track the source of the transmission. But it doesn’t really build any suspense or tension. Because, like just about everything else in Funhouse, we know how it will play out. Right down to the last scene.

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I’m not a fan of the Saw franchise. If you are, maybe you’ll enjoy Funhouse more than I did, being a fan of TMZ probably wouldn’t hurt either for that matter. If not it’s dull, but the gore might keep you awake. Better yet, watch Tobe Hooper’s Funhouse.

Funhouse is available On Demand and DVD from Magnolia Home Entertainment.

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