By Sotiris Petridis.
The horror film usually incorporates social critiques within its filmic texts. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) has been described as a commentary on the post-Vietnam era, while the slasher film subgenre of the 1980s critiques this conservative period when the AIDS crisis was one of the main concerns of American society. These films took the equation “Unprotected sex=death” to another level. Of course, as society itself evolves, the main concerns of the community change. This is one of the main reasons why the horror film took a shift away from narratives with gender bias and started to explore other social issues, including harsh critiques against the millennial generation.
The Funhouse Massacre (2015) is a great example of this argument. The story is about five psychopaths – Mental Manny (Jere Burns), Animal the Cannibal (E.E. Bell), Dr. Suave (Sebastian Siegel), the Taxidermist (Clint Howard), and Rocco the Clown (Mars Crain), who, with the help of Dollface (Candice De Visser) manage to escape from a local asylum and all together take over a Halloween Funhouse whose theme is inspired by their previous acts of horror. So they terrorize the unsuspecting crowd of this Funhouse, including young characters who work at a local diner. At the end, from this group only Laurie (Renee Dorian) manages to survive, with the help of workmate Geraldo (Erick Chavarria) and Deputy Doyle (Ben Begley) who were not part of the Funhouse’s crowd.
The film is a slasher/torture porn hybrid, while its narrative tributes the history of the genre. The story takes place on Halloween night and the female character that manages to confront the killers and stay alive is named Laurie, after the iconic lead protagonist of Halloween (1978) and one of the most admired Final Girls of cinematic horror. Another homage to the slasher film subgenre is the (almost cameo) appearance of the actor who played Freddy Krueger, Robert Englund, as the warden of this secret asylum. The narrative has a lot of horror motifs, including cannibalism, murders, torture and decapitation. This mixture of horror troupes helps to structure the narrative on a gore themed story. Also, there are a lot of the genre’s classical conventions, like the punishment of the sexual act and reward for the virginal character, while at the same time some other norms are improved, with the female victims more active and resistant. Stereotypical representation of the characters’ expression of sexuality is found in their Halloween costumes; Laurie is dressed as a bee which reminds us a lot of a kid’s costume, while her friend and victim-to-be, Christina, is dressed as a Sexy Hillary Clinton.
Nevertheless, the narrative itself does not rely on gender bias. The caustic commentary of this filmic text are not about the sexual orientation of the new generation, but about the cynical characteristics of the millenials. Today’s young people are represented as apathetic, addicted to social media, and lacking any compassion for others. While the psychopaths spread real terror all over the Funhouse, the millennials are taking pictures and videos and posting them online. They even discuss what hashtag they will use in order to get more “likes.” While other members of the community are getting killed in front of their eyes, they are saying that it’s “bad acting” and “not realistic blood.”
We live in an era with all of humankind’s information in our hands, via smartphones. Images are now traveling with the speed of light and the millennial generation is exposed to large amounts of information, something that can cause immunity. This filmic text depicts the new generation as egocentric and caring more about their social media presence than their friends or acquaintances dying in front of them.
Of course, critiques of the millennial generation have appeared in other modern horror films, like Scream 4 (2011) and The Cabin in the Woods (2012). Yet The Funhouse Massacre continues the genre’s legacy with provocative commentary. While using old conventions that make its plot turns predictable to horror fans, the film reshapes the norms for the present.
Sotiris Petridis is a Ph.D. Candidate in Film Studies at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, and has been awarded a scholarship from Onassis Foundation for his doctoral studies. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Film Studies (Aristotle University) and a master’s degree in Art, Law and Economy (International Hellenic University). He is currently teaching Film Theory and Film History at the Institute of Vocational Training in Thessaloniki. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org