So I’m sitting there on the couch minding my own business after a long day of driving(picked up my daughter from school for Christmas break Thursday) when my wife says “You got something in the mail.” Me? I got something in the mail? What could this be? So she hands me a small manila envelope. It’s origins? The Great White North: Ontario, Canada. My good pal and fellow blogging aficionado Aaron over at keepsmealive sent me a CD copy of the soundtrack to the 1981 horror romp The Funhouse. The Funhouse was directed by the late horror auteur Tobe Hooper and it was about four teens that get locked in a funhouse after dark and are being stalked by a deformed killer.
You know, the usual.
Anyways, so why would Aaron just randomly send me a score to some average 80s slasher? I mean, that’s kind of weird, right? Well, not really. Back in August Aaron sent me an email asking what I knew about the film The Funhouse. He said someone at work was talking about it and wanted to know my opinion on it. Of course I regaled him in the story about how my uncle took my older brother to see it. My older brother in 1981 was 13 years old. This was before the days of PG-13 films. You know, those movies that towed the line between child-like and adult. Maybe an F-bomb was dropped once or twice and possibly some side boob was seen or a butt crack was visible, but just for a second. Besides things that would offend the Christian right, the film was pretty much harmless. But The Funhouse wasn’t a harmless mid-80s romp. There was nudity, cheesy deaths, and general circus freakiness that would make a 13 year old in 1981 have nightmares, which it did to my older bro. Tobe Hooper made the film a grimy, sleazy mess. Why my uncle, who’d gone to a Christian college to be a youth pastor took such pleasure in freaking out his nephew is beyond me(gotta watch that Christian right, man.)
I saw The Funhouse when I was a teenager as well, sometime in the mid to late 80s. I know it was after 1984 as we had a VCR by then(we got our first one November of 1984) and The Funhouse was a weekend rental by yours truly and one of my horror-loving pals. Honestly, it didn’t quite scare me like it did my brother. By then I’d been hardened by Nightmare On Elm Street, Fright Night, and George A. Romero’s ‘Dead’ films. I’d been building up an immunity to cheeseball horror and had graduated to more disturbing fare. The Funhouse was pretty pedestrian by 1986-87. Honestly, I’m not sure this movie would’ve scared me in 1981 at the age of 7. I think my brother was a little more fragile than I thought(but hey, that’s why I love him so.)
Apparently Aaron came across a CD copy of the soundtrack and kindly sent it my way. Having looked this up it seems it’s a pretty rare special edition version of the score. A promo version from 1998, actually. I didn’t really know what to expect, so I took it to work on Friday morning and popped it into the computer. Turns out, this is a really solid film score. It’s a traditional orchestral score, in the vein of John Williams, Bernard Herrmann, and Jerry Goldsmith. With later horror films the composer and orchestra was replaced with bits of incidental music and pop soundtracks. Music cues and emotion grabbers just weren’t there like they were “back in the day”. There were still some guys doing amazing stuff. Cats like Christopher Young(Hellraiser), Charles Bernstein(A Nightmare On Elm Street), and Brad Fidel(The Terminator) were putting amazing scores on modern horror and sci fi in the 80s, but for the most part we were seeing one guy and a synth doing the work of many.
John Beal, in 1981, was following the traditional path of film scoring and it worked quite wonderfully. I dare say this score might even be too damn good for a film like The Funhouse. But hey, that’s just me. Beal had plenty of practice scoring TV shows like Vega$, Laverne and Shirley, Happy Days, and Eight Is Enough. He also scored the horror movie doc Terror In The Aisles. Beal was a professional and it shows, especially in The Funhouse.
I’d just like to say thanks to Aaron for the most pleasant surprise in the mail this week. This little blogging community that we’ve created here is pretty special. Everyone seems to come together and share in their love of music, books, films, and pretty much just being a fan of art and its positive effects on our lives. I can say without a doubt that starting this blog up now just over 6 years ago was the absolute best decision I could’ve made for myself. I feel that opening my head and heart on these pages has turned me into the person I’ve been trying to be for years. Sounds overly dramatic I know, but it’s true. Before starting this blog I was really struggling to find some sort of identity outside of 9 to 5er, dad, and husband. For years I thought I wanted to be some singer/songwriter type. Writing songs and playing a bunch of instruments in my basement studio. I separated that identity from the day to day guy. It wasn’t healthy and it all came to a head eventually and I had to rebuild myself from the ground up. You can’t be two people. You can be one that has many likes and loves. If you separate yourself too much then everything gets splintered and hard to put back together. I’ve found that I love being a fan and writing about that passion is where its at for me. This whole community of writers has helped me get to this point, so thanks everyone.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, or Happy Holidays. Whatever butters your bread is good with me.
And thanks again Aaron. There will be something heading your way very soon. And I still stand by my first statement to you, if you ever see this playing on TV late one night give it a look. It’s entertaining to say the least.