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  Funny Man The Last Laugh
Year: 1994
Director: Simon Sprackling
Stars: Tim James, Christopher Lee, Benny Young, Ingrid Lacey, Pauline Black, Matthew Devitt, Chris Walker, Rhona Cameron, George Morton, Jamie Heard, Harry Heard, Bob Sessions, Ed Bishop, John Chancer, Jana Shelden, Barnaby North, Steve Wright
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Max Taylor (Benny Young) thought he was doing very well in this game of cards, but he went too far when he accepted the stakes of the only other player to be doing as well as he was. That man being Callum Chance (Christopher Lee), who placed the keys to his ancestral home on the table and was not best amused when Max won. But Max would be the one who really lost, for the country house was home to an evil spirit with a sense of humour all his own: the Funny Man (Tim James).

Before there was a renewed boom in British horror movies come the turn of the millennium, there were a few hardy souls trying to keep the movement alive, although too often they were judged to be more bowel movements than anything artistically satisfying. The first time filmmakers here were very much anti-establishment, working with such a low budget that it may have restricted them in some ways, but on the bright side they didn't have anyone telling them what to do other than each other, which in this case meant a typical sub-Freddy Krueger premise devolving into a series of off-colour gags.

The audience they were apparently aiming for was the opposite of pretentious: not for them the chin-stroking Jean Rollin fans or the kind of movie buff who thought David Lynch would never do as good as Eraserhead again. But what would you expect from a work that featured impressions of Jimmy Savile and Velma from Scooby-Doo as part of the merriment? The cast may have been lacking stars, with Scottish stand-up Rhona Cameron taking the cartoon character role, and Matthew Devitt from Melvin and Maureen's Musicagrams playing Max's aspiring rock star brother, but director Simon Sprackling did have an ace up his sleeve.

That was securing one day's work from horror icon Christopher Lee, whose appearance barely amounted to much more than an extended cameo, but saw his footage liberally sprinkled throughout to make it look more substantial than it was. However, the true star was Tim James, dressed up as a devilish Mr Punch and sporting makeup and costuming which belied the production's meagre funds. You got the idea that he was allowed to come up with whatever he could do to make this amusing, but the fact remained in spite of his irreverent presence he would have been better served by a tighter script which looked less like a late night TV sketch show.

Once Max's family reach the house, they are executed in lurid style by the Funny Man (adopting a variety of accents, not to mention outfits) and his brother brings a fresh bunch of victims with him in the shape of some none-too-clever hitchhikers, including a sorceress played by Pauline Black of band The Selecter who gives the bad guy what for, but not quite enough. The trouble with this was that it tried to apply daft humour to a slasher technique which by its design necessitated a lot of creeping around, fair enough for suspense but it didn't half drag when you were waiting for the next joke, humour that came across as going down better on the set than with most of the audience. There were some decent chuckles, mostly thanks to James' efforts, and the bad taste was determinedly stupid in a fashion that suggested they were on to something, but for too much of the time it rambled like a drunkard. Music by Parons/Haines, including a catchy end theme.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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