Larry Block Interview

20/01/2020 · Nightmares


It has been our pleasure to interview Larry Block, the scriptwriter of Tobe Hoope’s original cult movie: The Funhouse (1981). In the interview we have learned more about the creation process of this horror film masterpiece and the view Larry Block has on the genre as well as his evolution since he wrote this work. In addition, the scriptwriter has talked to us about his favorite horror films and his plans for The Funhouse remake.

King Kong (1933)
King Kong (1933)

1. What was the first film that really scared you or that left a mark on you?

Probably a re-run of the original Willis O’Brien version of King Kong (1933) on television. Then I saw Ray Harryhausen’s 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (1958) filmed in the ‘Miracle of Dynamation’ on the big screen and it literally blew my mind. The Cyclops monster scared the hell out of me, yet ‘wowed’ me at the same time. (A powerful combination of emotions for a kid to carry around.) I experience those same feelings whenever I see a good horror movie. I love the magic of good special effects and I love being scared, which is why I fell in love with the Genre.

Larry Block - The Funhouse
Larry Block

2. Which films inspired you to write the script for The Funhouse?

No film inspired me to write The Funhouse in terms of story. I had seen Halloween (1978) and quite frankly, thought I could do better. I was financially broke at the time. I wanted to write a haunted house movie and then after struggling for some time, had an Epiphany: The best haunted house in the world could be found on wheels, in a traveling Carnival Funhouse. I had visited a sleazy, raunchy traveling carnival when I was fifteen or sixteen years old. (I remember the unique sights, sounds & smells of it to this day.) I just knew it would make the perfect setting for a unique, very scary, colorful, teenage horror movie. I locked myself in my room with my typewriter and wrote the script in six weeks time.

Tobe Hooper
Tobe Hooper

3. How was working with Tobe Hooper?

Tobe was something else. He was very nice, creative, charming and great to work with. I spent 10 days on the set with him in Miami during pre-production. We accomplished a great deal. Except for Andrew Laszlo (the Cinematographer) and Mort Rabinowitz (the Production Designer), I think Tobe and I were the only two people on the set who really understood the film we were trying to make, which was very unfortunate. Don’t get me wrong — I love The Funhouse. It’s a beautiful film, but it could have been so much better. There were several key scenes that were never shot, including an extended, carefully choreographed, terrifying chase scene in which Amy Harper is literally losing her mind, as she’s being stalked by the monster. She runs head on into one of the funhouse mannequins – the plaster cracks, revealing a human corpse! (That scene explained so much and was designed to take the film to a whole new level of horror.)

Most of Tobe’s films (even the mediocre ones) show great flashes of brilliance.

We remained friends for several years, then I started working with Stan Lee at Marvel Entertainment and — after the mega, overly budgeted Poltergeist (1982), Tobe began directing a series of under budgeted movies for Cannon Films. I found the whole thing a little sad and disturbing. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) was such an iconic masterpiece which catapulted Tobe into the limelight when he was still pretty young. I don’t think Hollywood ever really understood him. And I don’t think Tobe ever figured out how to play the Hollywood game.

La casa de los 1000 cadáveres
House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

4. Some people think that House of 1000 Corpses (2003) is sort of a sequel to The Funhouse. Have you seen it? What is your opinion about this?

Quite honestly, I’ve never sat through the entire House Of 1000 Corpses.  I’ve seen the movie trailer, watched bits and pieces of the film and saw some of the reviews which make that point. A lot of movies have ‘borrowed’ scenes from The Funhouse. It’s just the nature of the business.

The Funhouse (1981)
The Funhouse (1981)

5. In case there was a remake of The Funhouse, would you prefer it to be a film or a TV series? Who would you like to direct it?

There’s definitely going to be a remake. I know, because I recently got the U.S. Copyright back from Universal Studios and am currently in talks with some major Hollywood horror heavyweights.

BTW a remake doesn’t preclude a sequel/prequel or series.

All options are on the table. (I’m even toying with the idea of doing a show or musical. Phantom of The Opera meets The Elephant Man. The entire theater would be transformed into a huge carnival, complete with barkers, vendors, sideshows and rides. It could be so cool.) Anyway, to answer your question, I don’t have any particular director in mind.

The Funhouse - La casa de los horrores
The Funhouse (1981)

6. It has been almost forty years since The Funhouse was released. How has Hollywood changed ever since?

Hollywood has changed so drastically, I pity newcomers. In the 80s and 90s if a writer had talent and knew how to tell a good story, he/she could eventually wind up with a ‘development deal’ and get to work with some pretty talented people. Those days are long gone.

The business has become too corporate and paint by numbers.

There are too many committees, executives and development experts standing in the way of creativity. Most know little or nothing about good story telling or have ever even seen the great movie classics. There are always exceptions, but they’re hard to come by.

Ultimátum a la Tierra
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

7. Which is, in your opinion, the most important period for horror films?

I know it sounds crazy, but probably the 1950s. Forbidden Planet (1956), the original Invaders From Mars (1953), The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), War Of The Worlds (1953), Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956) — all masterpieces in their own right, extremely entertaining, with important universal messages which hold true to this day.

Forbidden Planet (1956)
Forbidden Planet (1956)

8. Do you think now is a good time for the horror film genre?

It’s always a good time for good horror films.

They even thrived during America’s Great Depression, as they actually helped the masses cope with their fears.

The only problem now (with the proliferation of the new ‘streaming services’) is that they’re cranking them out like sausages. Many of the new films are mediocre, uninspired or highly derivative — a terrible waste of time, energy and money.

Mars Attack (1996)
Mars Attack! (1996)

9. Which horror films do you think are underrated?

Most of the 1950’s classics I described earlier. Many of the Hammer House Of Horror films, the original Planet Of The Apes (1968) and (although it’s more Sci-Fi than horror) I loved Mars Attacks! (1996).

It’s actually a brilliant allegory about man’s inability to recognize True Evil, even when it bites him on his ass.

Gene Siskel y Roger Ebert
Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert

10. Horror films are not as appreciated in terms of being awarded and recognized by the critics. What, do you think, is the reason for this?

Critics by nature are fairly elitist, often thinking their opinions are more important than the subjects they’re critiquing. Great horror films are like great magic tricks. Unfortunately, there are certain individuals who just can’t stand being fooled, so they won’t play the game and can’t embrace the genre. There’s nothing like a good horror tale. All cultures have them – their own versions of Grimm’s Fairytales which are so important to man’s maturation process. These critics have no idea what they’re missing out on. Of course, there are exceptions. Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert actually liked The Funhouse, considering it to be one of their Guilty Pleasures.

It Follows silla de ruedas
It Follows (2014)

11. Which are your favorite horror films in the last decade?

I absolutely loved Open Your Eyes (1997) (not the American remake which completely missed the teenage angst thing, central to the story). I also enjoyed Hostel (2005), You’re Next (2011), Get Out (2017) and my favorite low budget: It Follows (2014).

I was so creeped out by the girl waking up to find herself tied to the wheelchair scene, I was about to look away.

Then bam! — Then the director ‘spins’ the whole story around, turning it into a cautionary tale about sexual promiscuity. Total genius!

The Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)

12. What advice would you give to somebody who wants to write a horror film script?

My advice to aspiring horror writers is pretty simple: Write a short, make sure it’s perfect, then go out and shoot it. So many aspiring film makers think they can ‘fly by the seat of their pants’ wasting valuable time and resources without getting the script/story right. Also, watch every episode of Twilight Zone (1959-1964). Analyze them. Dissect them. Try to understand them. They really knew how to tell stories!

1. What was the first film that really scared you or that left a mark on you?

Probably a re-run of the original Willis O’Brien version of King Kong (1933) on television. Then I saw Ray Harryhausen’s 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (1958) filmed in the ‘Miracle of Dynamation’ on the big screen and it literally blew my mind. The Cyclops monster scared the hell out of me, yet ‘wowed’ me at the same time. (A powerful combination of emotions for a kid to carry around.) I experience those same feelings whenever I see a good horror movie. I love the magic of good special effects and I love being scared, which is why I fell in love with the Genre.

Right: King Kong (1933). Down: The Funhouse (1981).

King Kong (1933)
Larry Block Funhouse (1981)

2. Which films inspired you to write the script for The Funhouse?

No film inspired me to write The Funhouse in terms of story. I had seen Halloween (1978) and quite frankly, thought I could do better. I was financially broke at the time. I wanted to write a haunted house movie and then after struggling for some time, had an Epiphany: The best haunted house in the world could be found on wheels, in a traveling Carnival Funhouse. I had visited a sleazy, raunchy traveling carnival when I was fifteen or sixteen years old. (I remember the unique sights, sounds & smells of it to this day.) I just knew it would make the perfect setting for a unique, very scary, colorful, teenage horror movie. I locked myself in my room with my typewriter and wrote the script in six weeks time.

3. How was working with Tobe Hooper?

Tobe was something else. He was very nice, creative, charming and great to work with. I spent 10 days on the set with him in Miami during pre-production. We accomplished a great deal. Except for Andrew Laszlo (the Cinematographer) and Mort Rabinowitz (the Production Designer), I think Tobe and I were the only two people on the set who really understood the film we were trying to make, which was very unfortunate. Don’t get me wrong — I love The Funhouse. It’s a beautiful film, but it could have been so much better. There were several key scenes that were never shot, including an extended, carefully choreographed, terrifying chase scene in which Amy Harper is literally losing her mind, as she’s being stalked by the monster. She runs head on into one of the funhouse mannequins – the plaster cracks, revealing a human corpse! (That scene explained so much and was designed to take the film to a whole new level of horror.)

Most of Tobe’s films (even the mediocre ones) show great flashes of brilliance.

We remained friends for several years, then I started working with Stan Lee at Marvel Entertainment and — after the mega, overly budgeted Poltergeist (1982), Tobe began directing a series of under budgeted movies for Cannon Films. I found the whole thing a little sad and disturbing. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) was such an iconic masterpiece which catapulted Tobe into the limelight when he was still pretty young. I don’t think Hollywood ever really understood him. And I don’t think Tobe ever figured out how to play the Hollywood game.

Right: Tobe Hooper. Down: Larry Block at the Regent Theater.

Tobe Hooper - The Funhouse 1
Larry Block - The Funhouse

4. Some people think that House of 1000 Corpses (2003) is sort of a sequel to The Funhouse. Have you seen it? What is your opinion about this?

Quite honestly, I’ve never sat through the entire House Of 1000 Corpses.  I’ve seen the movie trailer, watched bits and pieces of the film and saw some of the reviews which make that point. A lot of movies have ‘borrowed’ scenes from The Funhouse. It’s just the nature of the business.

5. In case there was a remake of The Funhouse, would you prefer it to be a film or a TV series? Who would you like to direct it?

There’s definitely going to be a remake. I know, because I recently got the U.S. Copyright back from Universal Studios and am currently in talks with some major Hollywood horror heavyweights.

BTW a remake doesn’t preclude a sequel/prequel or series.

All options are on the table. (I’m even toying with the idea of doing a show or musical. Phantom of The Opera meets The Elephant Man. The entire theater would be transformed into a huge carnival, complete with barkers, vendors, sideshows and rides. It could be so cool.) Anyway, to answer your question, I don’t have any particular director in mind.

6. It has been almost forty years since The Funhouse was released. How has Hollywood changed ever since?

Hollywood has changed so drastically, I pity newcomers. In the 80s and 90s if a writer had talent and knew how to tell a good story, he/she could eventually wind up with a ‘development deal’ and get to work with some pretty talented people. Those days are long gone.

The business has become too corporate and paint by numbers.

There are too many committees, executives and development experts standing in the way of creativity. Most know little or nothing about good story telling or have ever even seen the great movie classics. There are always exceptions, but they’re hard to come by.

7. Which is, in your opinion, the most important period for horror films?

I know it sounds crazy, but probably the 1950s. Forbidden Planet (1956), the original Invaders From Mars (1953), The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), War Of The Worlds (1953), Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956) — all masterpieces in their own right, extremely entertaining, with important universal messages which hold true to this day.

Right: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Down: Forbidden Planet (1956).

Ultimátum a la Tierra
Forbidden Planet (1956)

8. Do you think now is a good time for the horror film genre?

It’s always a good time for good horror films.

They even thrived during America’s Great Depression, as they actually helped the masses cope with their fears.

The only problem now (with the proliferation of the new ‘streaming services’) is that they’re cranking them out like sausages. Many of the new films are mediocre, uninspired or highly derivative — a terrible waste of time, energy and money.

9. Which horror films do you think are underrated?

Most of the 1950’s classics I described earlier. Many of the Hammer House Of Horror films, the original Planet Of The Apes (1968) and (although it’s more Sci-Fi than horror) I loved Mars Attacks! (1996).

It’s actually a brilliant allegory about man’s inability to recognize True Evil, even when it bites him on his ass.

Right: Mars Attack! (1996). Down: Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert.

Mars Attack (1996)
Gene Siskel y Roger Ebert

10. Horror films are not as appreciated in terms of being awarded and recognized by the critics. What, do you think, is the reason for this?

Critics by nature are fairly elitist, often thinking their opinions are more important than the subjects they’re critiquing. Great horror films are like great magic tricks. Unfortunately, there are certain individuals who just can’t stand being fooled, so they won’t play the game and can’t embrace the genre. There’s nothing like a good horror tale. All cultures have them – their own versions of Grimm’s Fairytales which are so important to man’s maturation process. These critics have no idea what they’re missing out on. Of course, there are exceptions. Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert actually liked The Funhouse, considering it to be one of their Guilty Pleasures.

11. Which are your favorite horror films in the last decade?

I absolutely loved Open Your Eyes (1997) (not the American remake which completely missed the teenage angst thing, central to the story). I also enjoyed Hostel (2005), You’re Next (2011), Get Out (2017) and my favorite low budget: It Follows (2014).

I was so creeped out by the girl waking up to find herself tied to the wheelchair scene, I was about to look away.

Then bam! — Then the director ‘spins’ the whole story around, turning it into a cautionary tale about sexual promiscuity. Total genius!

It Follows silla de ruedas
The Twilight Zone

12. What advice would you give to somebody who wants to write a horror film script?

My advice to aspiring horror writers is pretty simple: Write a short, make sure it’s perfect, then go out and shoot it. So many aspiring film makers think they can ‘fly by the seat of their pants’ wasting valuable time and resources without getting the script/story right. Also, watch every episode of Twilight Zone (1959-1964). Analyze them. Dissect them. Try to understand them. They really knew how to tell stories!

Above: It Follows (2014). Left: The Twilight Zone (1959-1964).