Tuesday, August 31, 2010

God is Watching You

The montage ends abruptly with our two young ladies together alone for the first time and Liz enthused about her apparent fixing up of Amy and Buzz. This tent bathroom is the first of several interior set design triumphs for Hooper and Production Designer Mort Rabinowitz in terms of immortalizing carnival seediness. This bathroom is so dirty you feel unclean merely beholding it.

Liz and Amy's costumes are here at their most extreme contrast to their surroundings, while simultaneously the shale colored walls are at their most coldly mechanistic contrast to the rainbow of the carnival (at least until later on inside the Funhouse.) Their conversation is what makes them co-exist yet transcend the squalor of utilitarianism around them: They are discussing how Amy's chances with Buzz are going, youth and vigor giving them willful blindness to ignore the cracked mirrors and unclean sinks which underscore their natural bodily urges.

"You know, if you play your cards right..."

"You may not have to spend the rest of your life a virgin."

Particularly youthful in our culture is the idea that losing your virginity is a game that ends with a ride. Beginning with Halloween came the idea that teenagers in horror films playing with the screen taboo of intercourse were tempting death, and from the blossoming exploitation genre of youth animal comedies (Animal House and its imitators) the genre borrowed the sense of play now framing the quest for sex. 

The point of this scene is that Amy is a virgin, which puts her fun seeking dishonesty in a new light. She is beautiful and socially active, yet contrasted here to the vivacious and sexually active Liz. This is not just another night out for her, this is the make-or-break night for one of the biggest hunks in school and presumably the high school social grace that follows. The Funhouse gently asks us to take a lot of teen movie cliches seriously by making their involved behavior directly implicated in the danger to come.


"...Fuck up!"

Neither JR nor I have ever heard the words "Fuck up!" used in conversation as you might say "Oh, shut up!" Not in real life or even any other films. Have you?

Sonia Zomina as the Bag Lady. John Beal's score reappears for the first time since The Shower Scene with synthesized strings, a marked shift from the rest of the score's full orchestra and also the incessant generic background melody of carnival music. Quite a lot of slashers had taken the synthesized sound as their own after John Carpenter's bluntly selective use of it in Halloween.

"God is watching you!"

"Beg your pardon?"

Teenagers and their elders have had communication problems since at least the 1950s, when a sheriff wouldn't believe that the Eye Creatures were abducting neckers from makeout point or whatever. Although the Donald Pleasance character in Halloween is a masterful reversal of the truth-seer role into a lone adult underdog, the real influence on the genre belongs to Friday the 13th and "Crazy Ralph," a bicycle riding drunkard whose unheeded warnings of "doom" became the model for a lot of disheveled adults warning youth that there was a murder in the area however many years ago and they should party somewhere else.

Tobe Hooper tapped into the feeling young people get from bad adult omens back in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with that film's own drunken old fool, so it's important to notice eight years afterwards he allows himself to revisit and behold that genre cliche he unwittingly helped create. "God is watching you" is a way different warning from "you're going to die tonight." The fact that this is a bag lady in the ladies room/tent addressing two girls who've yet to be sullied by life is vital to the virginity conversation. When she says God is watching Liz and Amy, she really means we the audience and Tobe Hooper himself are watching, waiting and silently judging.

Zomina does a humorously hurried shuffle towards the girls you have to see in motion to appreciate; an actor's moment that makes the scene come alive. The adults of The Funhouse are all either deformed or alien.

" He - "

" - hears - "

" - everything!"

This is as close as any slasher film has ever gotten to saying outright that the girls better stay chaste or else. The uneasy laugh of the scene is recognizing the Bag Lady's scold within the context of a horror movie.

A short dramatic violin string emphasizes the Bag Lady's wink beneath the synth strings and her relaxed face puts the period on Hooper's ominous and humorous declaration.

"I hate people who preach..."

The Bag Lady's water closet exit urges once more the queasy coexistence of budding womanhood and the ramshackle public chamber of bodily functions.

"...Especially in bathrooms!"

Classic Girl, by American Apparel.

"Anyway - "

" - I don't know what you're saving it for."

"Who says I'm saving it?"


"...is watching you..."

Watching Amy, that is.

"All good horror movies have at least one Old Crone. This one has a couple of 'em. The Old Crone is there to remind you what your girlfriend is eventually going to look like. That's why she's so scary."
- Joe Bob Briggs, Monstervision (airdate: April 3rd, 1999)

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