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The Funtime Show: A Horror Anthology Film (2017)

Review by Nic Brown


What does it mean to be famous? Is it the movie star you see walking down the street and instantly recognize? Is it a killer like Jack The Ripper, who’s alias is synonymous with serial killing and mystery, yet no one knows who The Ripper really was? Fame is a fluid thing, it has many levels from those famous within their own small circle to those who known throughout the world. Many people seek out fame in any form they can find and thanks to the internet the idea that everyone has 15 seconds of fame has changed. You now get 5 seconds and a meme if you’re lucky. But what would you be willing to do for that brief flash in the pan of notoriety? That’s the question being asked by Mr. Sunshine the clown on his mysterious website where he asks people to message him for a chance at fame and fortune by being a contestant on "The Funtime Show".


Thousands of people responded to the call for submissions from this seemingly innocuous internet sensation. Only a few were chosen. One of them was Cheryl and her husband. Of course they didn’t know they were chosen, until two masked men snuck into their home while they were sleeping and gassed them.


Now Cheryl awakens to find herself on the set of "The Funtime Show". She is surprisingly calm and excited to be there, considering her hands and feet are restrained to the chair, but hey, this is her chance at the big time. This is Cheryl’s chance to become famous.


Mr. Sunshine introduces himself and explains the rules to the show. He’s going to ask Cheryl, the contestant, questions and she’s going to answer them. She plays a long and is excited to be part of the fun as Mr. Sunshine does some typical “clown” antics to get things started. But the questions aren’t general knowledge, no, they have a bit more of a sinister twist to them. Mr. Sunshine shows the contestant a video and after each video he asks her his question. The spotlight on her turns an ominous red color and the viewers wait to see if she will get the question right or if she will get it wrong. Each correct answer brings her one step closer to fame, but what does a wrong answer bring?


The videos she’s asked to watch should be a clue to the contestant about the true nature of "The Funtime Show". The first is a horror short called “The Last Walk Home” and features a man walking home through the park. He stops to help a woman in apparent distress only to find horror awaiting him.  The video is dark and horrific, yet she watches it eagerly expecting it to all be a fun part of the game that we lead her to the fame she desires.


The another video is a tale of dark magic called “The Effigy”. This time it is the story of a doll that supposedly contains the trapped spirit of a demon. The contestant watches the video and sees the dark ritual that binds the demon’s spirit to the doll. She sees the results when a young man later buys the doll from a curio shop as a gift for his girlfriend. The results are horrific and surprising, yet the contestant doesn’t think anything is strange about the macabre spectacle Mr. Sunshine is forcing her to watch or the ominous nature that seeps into his show as it moves towards its conclusion.


"The Effigy" and "The Last Walk Home" are joined by one more short, "Stranger". This short skillfully avoids showing the faces of a couple as they meet for a blind date. The blind date shows the true meaning of  'stranger danger' and nicely rounds out the horrors that Mr. Sunshine exposes Cheryl, the contestant, to.


Pointedly, Cheryl also hasn’t once asked about her husband. Where is he? Is he on the show? Is he at home? Did he play and win? As the contestant, Cheryl seems to have forgotten everything except for her focus on winning the strange spectacle that is "The Funtime Show". She doesn’t know it, but her husband’s fate and her own are bound together as Mr. Sunshine brings his Fun Time show to a gruesome end. 


Independent filmmakers Mark and Tracy Smith have been making short horror films for over a decade. Their work has covered the supernatural, zombies and the dark places the mind goes when it’s late at night and you hear that strange noise just outside your house. "The Funtime Show" is something a little different for Mark and Tracy as they're taking the talents they've built making short films and used them to craft their first feature. Tapping into one of mankind’s strangest, collective ideas; that clowns are creepy as hell, the filmmaking couple build a somewhat cautionary tale of the dangers of our modern fame obsession and how saying we’d do anything for fame and fortune may be a mistake.


The Smiths use three of their own short films along with footage they shot specifically for "The Funtime Show" to build a well-crafted anthology story. The videos within the film are obviously low budget, but at the same time they show that you don’t need lots of money to make a good story come to life on the screen, a fact that is sadly often overlooked by both the film establishment and audiences. Also of note is the way Mark and Tracy use Mr. Sunshine to communicate many messages, including a dig a the modern film industry and the narrow framework it wishes to shoehorn all works in for them to be successful.


Ultimately "The Funtime Show" is a work of passion and Mark and Tracy have that in spades. The overarching story of Cheryl, the contestant, on "The Funtime Show" is a bit less compelling than the shorts that are a part of it. However, the cautionary message about fame and the quest for it is clear and overall the finished product works well, if it is a bit short, coming in at just over an hour. So if you like the mix of horror genres an anthology film can offer, check out Mark and Tracy Smith’s "The Funtime Show", but pay attention because Mr. Sunshine will be watching and if you can’t answer his questions you may find fame on the internet, but not in any way you’d enjoy.



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