BITS 2021: Funhouse (2019)

Funhouse (2019)

Director (and co-writer): Jason William Lee

Cast: Valter Skarsgard, Khamisa Wilsher, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Christopher Gerard, Karolina Benefield, Amanda Howells, Mathias Retamal, Dayleigh Nelson, Jerome Velinsky, Kylee Bush, Bradley Duffy

When 8 celebrities from around the globe are invited to compete in an online reality show, they soon realize that they are playing for their very lives, as those voted off suffer horrific consequences, broadcast live to the entire world. – IMDB

There’s really nothing like the horror of being danger for a fight to be the only one standing. Its almost like Big Brother, The Circle mixed with Danganrompa (video game if you don’t know). Last one standing film content is so frequently seen especially after the recent Squid Game which notched things up quite a bit. Without any comparisons however, Funhouse is a good premise but lacks the proper execution however, credit where its due, they did execute a decent ending.

Funhouse sets up with these characters who are all different level of social influence on different media platforms but each having their own unworthiness of their fame which leads them to being picked to be here. These eight contestants are all introduced in a decent way. Worth a mention is probably Gigi Saul Guerrero is plays one of the contestants Ximena as she is quite the name in both being an actress and a director in the indie horror world. At the same time, there’s also the male lead played by Valter Skarsgard, another of Stellan Skarsgard’s children making an appearance on the big screen. The plan to make you want to cheer for them to survive is their little interactions and what they talk about in their camera moments and then the film’s audience votes. The problem for the actual film audience is the whole film feels repetitive and in turn, gets boring by the time the same cycle goes a few time. Its camera time, 2 seconds later not knowing them more its voting time and then their death in whatever gruesome way and rinse and repeat. Things do change when the characters flip after they realize this is a game with deadly stakes. However past that, it doesn’t quite manage to stay entertaining. No one seems like they deserve to die no matter how unworthy their Internet fame is but they also aren’t intriguing characters. The intriguing moments comes a little too late.

The previous point does lead to the more important element which is the execution and scripting being more of an issue. These two is what creates these characters and the flow of events. What helps is that the tone itself isn’t exactly serious so the characters can be as over the top (or not) as they are written without a lot of limits. Same goes for the rich guy who runs the show in the background showing himself as an animated panda on screen and going off on cheeky rants. Another point that is good is that it does circle around and gives a basic idea of who this mysterious behind the scenes guy is and why he set this whole thing up by the end, giving it a bit of resolution as well.

Thing is, Funhouse is rather below average. Its leans on the boring side of horror. Sure, it has some creative and varied ways to kill its contestants and it has a decent premise overall but it just lacks the tension these films should have. There is no sense of sympathy towards them other than the reason of why they were picked seems a little over the top ridiculous, which does match with the mentality of some killers in these sorts of film. The whole broadcast element does show an issue with Internet control for younger audiences if anything and it does also cover the scrutiny of other media sources towards the authenticity of these sorts of shows. There is something deeper trying to be told here, I assume but something just feels missing to make it more entertaining of a watch whether as a horror or even a not so serious dark humor film.

*Funhouse was part of the Super Channel program for Blood in the Snow Film Festival. The physical film festival is on November 18th to 23rd in Royal Theatre Toronto. You can check out the line-up HERE.*