This little precious gem of a movie has always intrigued me, not because it’s even above average in the scar department, but because it’s just full of creepy image after creepy image. Of course that what we feel whenever there’s a Carnival in town, right? So when a group of teenagers decide it would be “fun” to spend the night trespassing in a Funhouse…at that point we kind of have to start rooting for the mutants and freaks to kill them.
That having been said, you really should enjoy watching this film. Not considered one of Hooper’s best by far, but still a fun and wild ride into the creepiness of Carney Folk. What I’d like to talk about with this film is the term Taboo. A taboo is a socially prohibited activity. They are cultural specific. For example, in Greek times murders couldn’t enter houses of worship. The same went for women who were menstruating. Nice to know the Greeks put those two on the same level.
In The Funhouse, the taboo that’s alluded too very subtly, but is totally there, is bestiality. From the time the teenagers enter the Freak Show section of the carnival they see a bottled up corpse of a baby that is totally mutated. It is clear that the baby’s face is cleft in two. The mutant in the film also has a very cleft pallet and a face that’s split right down the middle. Add to this that the first thing the kids see before they enter the tent is a live cow with two faces and you have the connection. As if that’s not enough or perhaps too subtle for you, there’s a scene where a guy in the carnival is telling a story about a guy who has sex with a cow. The implication then is that the mutant children of offspring of the cow. Again, it’s subtle, but it’s there.
We need taboos as a society to control deviant behavior, but taboos change over time. But there are a few that transcend over many cultures such as incest, murder, cannibalism, etc. Having sex with cows is probably right up there in many cultures as well. At least it probably should be. Poet James Dickey explored this idea of farm boys and bestiality with his amazing poem “The Sheep Child." There's also "Leda and the Swan" by William Butler Yeats based on a the Greek myth where Zeus disguises himself as a swan so he can rape Leda. So while bestiality is kind of gross, literature has explored it artistically in the past. The most recent exploration is probably Edward Albee's play The Goat or Who is Sylvia?
Click here to read "The Sheep Child"
Click here to read "Leda and the Swan"