DVD Review: Funhouse
Being stuck at home trying to avoid the pandemic, I’ve watched way too much reality TV. The shows are mindless as people try their hardest to win either money or romance. Sometimes the contestants attempt to prove they are somehow celebrities. How many times do you look at Dancing With the Stars and have to look up what these people did to make them “Stars.” Are they famous or Instagram famous? Ultimately, I wish the shows took away the star status of these famous for being famous people and returned them to the normal world. Maybe just force them to remain in their Masked Singer costumes until they do something that benefits humanity. Funhouse is film about what happens when someone comes up with a reality show that goes beyond feeding the egos of people clinging to fame.
A rather rich guy (The Evil In Us‘ Jerome Velinsky) has a very sadistic way of entertaining himself. In his mansion he pays off a woman for doing something really horrendous. But he know that she wants the money he’s promised and she needs to finish the deed. His next entertainment project is going to be bigger and more public. He brings together 8 D-List celebrities that agree to the show for a shot at winning $5 million. But this isn’t going to be as easy as winning I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. First they know something is not right when they wake up in a strange facility. Turns out they were knocked out at their hotel room and transported into the place. They have to wear clothes provided that feature a Panda with a crown. The eight seem to include a disgraced fighter, a bunch of social media superstars and the ex-husband of a famous pop singer (Valter Skargard – part of the Skargard acting family). They could all use the fat payday and the career boost of being on a gameshow. The show is hosted by an animated Panda and streams so there’s no network interference with the content.
At first the viewers and the 8 participants sense this is going to be something with elements of The Surreal Life, The Real World and Big Brother. There’s no real interaction with cameramen or video crew since the show is shot with remote cameras. Since the show is being streamed, they’re performing 24 hours a day. The only help are guys wearing Panda masks that don’t talk to them. The only thing they know is that it is a popularity contestant and every three days, the viewers get to vote for their favorite person. The person at the bottom has to do a challenge to see if they can remain in the house. And if the bottom two are close in the voting, they get to compete against each other. When day three rolls around, the contestants discover that this isn’t a goofy Netflix series. There’s a reason why someone is going to get five million dollars. They’re going to need all that money for therapy to get over the horrors they experienced to be the winner.
Funhouse appears to have played film festivals in 2019 back when it was fun to be in a crowded room with strangers. But seeing the film in 2021 has made me more of the intended audience. The film combines those mindless gameshows with the senseless violence of a torture film. You’re not really sure if you want to root for someone to survive and get the money. The characters aren’t the most richly textured which is the point. I remember working with a bunch of MySpace superstars on a concert event. These characters do match the reality of the people who focus on having all those followers. Even better is how we get glimpses of the people watching the show at home and how they think so much of it is faked. We get to see the memes that people would post on Twitter in reaction to the various elimination challenges. Director Jason William Lee and his crew have made a film that ought to be picked up as a series.
Funhouse is a perfect night’s viewing if you want to enjoy Scary Season as this pandemic keeps going. You’ll never cheer hard enough for someone to get unliked by their fans.
Behind the Scenes of Funhouse
Visual Effects Breakdown
Magnolia Pictures presents Funhouse. Directed by Jason William Lee. Screenplay by Jason William Lee. Starring Valter Skargard, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Khamisa Wilsher, Christopher Gerard and Karolina Benefield. Running Time: 106 minutes. Rated: Unrated. Release Date: August 31, 2021.