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"Funeral Home" is very entertaining and traditionally morbid early 80's horror movie directed by the underrated William Fruet, who also made the top-notch revenge flick "House by the Lake" and the goofy slasher "Killer Party". Fruet obviously hadn't much of a budget available here, so he splendidly emphasizes the horrific atmosphere and makes full use of the eerie settings. A lot of great movies use a bed & a breakfast motel as horror location and the residence in this movie is actually a former mortuary turned into bed & breakfast, so creepiness is definitely guaranteed! Heather, a young girl with an unexplained phobia for black cats, travels to a remote little town to help her grandmother run the newly opened vacation resort. Her grandfather, the local undertaker for decades, mysteriously vanished a couple of years ago and the villagers still spread nasty rumors about him. During the night, Heather hears strange voices coming from the basement and, shortly after, the first guests begin to disappear. The plot offers almost no surprise elements or twists; also since it's clearly a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho", and the amount of bloody make-up effects is kept to a minimum. Still the tone of the movie is constantly ominous and several sequences are downright creepy, notably the handful of flashbacks referring to the times Mr. Chalmers still ran the funeral home. The acting and music are also very good and the predictably grotesque climax is a lot of fun to watch. Creepy stuff, vintage 80's horror!
An effectively spooky low-budget thriller that takes more inspiration
from Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) rather than Carpenter's Halloween
(1978), as so many horror films from this era did.
A girl goes to help her grandmother with her new boarding house, a former funeral parlor, and begins to uncover sinister things as the guests start vanishing.
Solid direction uplifts this tight thriller, whose storyline is ultimately not very surprising. A few well-drawn characters do help to keep the story interesting. The rustic filming locations help to add to a chilling summer atmosphere and an air of mystery that works well to the films advantage. The re-occurring images of the black cat are a nice touch. The film is fairly subtle in its horrors, and probably comes off more compelling (and classy) because of it. In short, it's simple but good.
The cast is a strong point. Kay Hawtry is a stand-out as the grandmother, Lesleh Donaldson is fetching as our young female, and Dean Garbett is good as Donaldson's summer love.
All around, Funeral Home is a film that serves well as a thriller. It's not especially brilliant, but it does make for good entertainment.
*** out of ****
Exceptional in all departments for a cheaply constructed horror film,
FUNERAL HOME is the creepy little tale of a young girl relocating to a
provincial town in order to assist her grandmother in converting the
family funeral home business into a modest bed-and-breakfast retreat.
When people begin to mysteriously disappear, a history of bizarre
family secrets is gradually revealed in a suspenseful mystery which
spires toward a bizarre and thoroughly satisfying conclusion.
A surprisingly adept parsimonious undertaking, FUNERAL HOME is an atmospheric chiller with primary characters which are believably written and energetically dramatized...a largely uncharted item demonstrative of what talented hands can craft with limited resources.
Worthwhile and recommended. 6.5/10
I just watched Funeral Home and keep wondering why I've never seen it
now. It's a 1980 horror flick that's a little above average for its
What I mean to say is that it fits right in there with the horror films
during the time, the ones that had fairly decent acting and good enough
scripts. Why didn't I ever see this on cable TV back in the day? I
recognized actress Lesleh Donaldson playing Heather, remembered her from
films Happy Birthday to Me and Curtains. Now those two movies played on
cable all the time back then. Also, recognized the one cop played by Alf
Humphreys from My Bloody Valentine. Funeral Home is a decent horror movie,
especially having been made in 1980. It does mirror Hitchcock's Psycho in
certain plot aspects and in its build up, but it's still distinct enough,
think. There's not a lot of action, blood spraying everywhere, but it has
creepy atmosphere in which the setting is believable. Holds the attention.
really thought the ending was clever with the credits rolling and the
still playing. Liked the dialogue at the end between the cop and the old
woman. Funeral Home should be in every horror collector's
After her husband passes away,a young widow decides to turn the old funeral home into a bed and breakfast.Unfortunately no one is prepared for the nightmare that is locked in the cellar.Canadian director William Fruet who made excellent rape-and-revenge film "Death Weekend" directed also this obscure slasher.Lesleh Donaldson more known from "Happy Birthday to Me" and "Curtains" is surprisingly decent and charming in the main role."Funeral Home",whilst obviously influenced by Alfred Hitchcock's classic "Psycho",offers some creepy surprises.The pace is rather slow and the body count is low,however the character of grandmother surely send shiver down my spine.All in all,"Funeral Home" is a surprisingly watchable slasher flick.Give it a look.7 out of 10.
What do you do when your husband, the funeral director, runs out and is never seen again many years past, and leaves you with a big, old funeral home? Why turn it into a bed and breakfast of course! Funeral Home is one of those cheaply yet competently made horror film of the late seventies/early eighties that manages to evoke some real, honest chills while maintaining a somewhat serious facade. No small feat when you consider most of the horror derivative drivel produced during this era. Kay Hawtrey plays Mrs. Maude Chalmers who now runs a bed and breakfast and just received her granddaughter to help her make a go of it. Hawtrey gives one heck of a performance as a woman riddled with contradictions. Rumours abound that she was abandoned by her husband for another woman, but she doesn't believe any of that. She seems very normal except no one, absolutely no one, is allowed in the basement - where she can be heard often talking to someone. She plays the ever so sweet grandmother and charitable woman making flowers for the under-privileged. She plays the morally outraged innkeeper who disapproves of any behaviors she deems imprudent. She also has a more far-reaching range as the movie progresses to its revealing climax. But it is Hawtrey's performance that really makes this film work at any level - without it you would have nothing more than some slasher film without any merit. The rest of the acting is pretty good too with Barry Morse no less adding some more credibility as a house guest out to find some secret. As far as the story goes, it is nothing really inventive or hard to figure out to be sure, but the acting, lack of glossy production values, rural, almost Rockwellesque summer settings, and some competent directing all manage to create a fine little horror gem from Canada.
William Fruet's film, Funeral Home, is for the most part Psycho with kids.
The movie starts off with a teenager visiting her grandmother in a small
town. Both plan to turn the house that the grandmother lives in (which was
once the town's funeral home) into a summer house for passers by. Tenants
soon show up and then quickly disappear. Soon the teenager and the town's
new young deputy investigate the disappearances and discover that this
coming and going of out-of-towners has been happening for some time. They
finally discover the answer to the mystery in the film's scary ending.
The performances by both the older cast members and younger actors are very good. Watching the deputy character gather clues to build a case added alot of charm to the film as well. Although shot on a low budget, it is still very well produced and the action scenes are very well staged indeed. Horror fans should give this one a try next time they visit their video store. Happy Hunting!
I'm sure I'm in a distinct minority, but I actually like '80's slasher
movies more for their atmosphere than for their special effects (which
seem to look more cheesy and primitive with each passing year).
Unfortunately, the eerie atmosphere of the early slasher movies
eventually got overwhelmed, first by out-of-control special effects,
then by talentless "scream queens" and softcore sex, and finally by
cornball comedy and self-conscious parody. That's why I kind of like
this film, even if it's nobody's idea of a great slasher flick or a
good horror film. It has no gore and no nudity, but it has a good early
80's slasher movie atmosphere.
A teenage girl (Lesleh Donaldsen) comes to stay with her grandma who operates a hotel that was once a funeral home. Her violent grandfather has supposedly disappeared, but grandma keeps talking to someone in the cellar. Meanwhile, various obnoxious guests check into the hotel, but don't check out, and the girl and her new boyfriend start to investigate. This movie is original in that instead of ripping off "Halloween" like almost all the other slasher movies, it rips off an even older classic horror/thriller. But, as they say,if you're gonna steal, you should at least steal from the best. The ending probably won't surprise you too much, but it not entirely ineffective. The actress playing the grandma is very good and effectively scary. Donaldsen was one of a group of young Canadians that were regulars in these kind of films (Canadian tax shelter production masquerading as middle American films). She wasn't as pretty as Lisa Langlois or Tracy Bregman and didn't fall out of her clothes at the drop of a pay-cheque like Joy Boushel, but she was very good at playing "the girl next door", and this was one of her better roles.
Don't expect any T and A or gore here, but see this if you ever get a hankering for the old atmospheric early 80's slasher films.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Teenager Heather(Lesleh Donaldson) moves in with her devoutly religious
grandmother Maude Chalmers(Kay Hawtrey in a terrific performance) who,
along with her absent husband, once ran their place as a funeral home,
now starting up a tourist bed'n'breakfast for visitors in town. Heather
soon discovers her grandma chatting it up with someone in the cellar,
or so she believes. Maude forbids her passionately to stay out of the
cellar, and has it's door pad-locked. Heather begins dating a local,
Rick(Dean Garbett)who informs her of sordid details regarding her
grandfather which she initially rejects angrily, but, over time, begins
to question her grandmother's story of what happened to him. Rick's
brother, newly hired Deputy Joe(Alf Humphreys)has been investigating a
rash of disappearances plaguing his small town, against his
sheriff's(Robert Warner)wishes, and soon realizes that those missing
connect to Maude's tourist locale. A customer of Maude's, Mr.
Davis(Barry Morse), is also pursuing the disappearance of his wife, who
was rumored to be the lover of the missing Mr. Chalmers, as he often
reports to Joe on any information which might become available. When a
visiting salesman and his mistress, using Maude's place as a refuge for
their affair, wind up dead thanks to a mysterious truck driver who
pushes their car over a cliff surrounding a watering hole, and Davis,
whose snooping leads to a difficult confrontation with Mrs. Chalmers,
suffers himself a grim fate, it's only a matter of time before the
secret of the cellar becomes known.
Through the developing mystery of director William Fruet and writer Ida Nelson, the film gives us subtle hints over time as to who might be behind the murders/disappearances. Throughout, we get facts about the main character unseen, the missing husband, and bit by bit everything falls in place leading to quite a suspenseful conclusion as Heather and Rick find themselves in danger as the ax-wielding nutcase in the cellar rears his/her face for the first time. The ending might not be a major surprise to those familiar with Psycho as the twist is eerily similar in psychological content to Hitchcock's masterpiece. It's still a doozy and I wish I could define how neat it is regarding the performance of the cellar psychopath, but I wouldn't dare spoil how it unfolds. Kay Hawtry is the whole show and displays with her face and demeanor a wealth of various emotions, especially when anyone approaches the subject of her husband and the cellar. Besides the ending, her reaction to Morse's amateur sleuth is a definite highlight. Donaldson was a perfect protagonist, the teenager blossoming into a woman, displaying her as mature, conflicted(..because she loves her grandmother and worries about her, not at all responding well to the supposed gossip regarding her grandfather), and scared. Stephen E Miller is memorable as a lurking handyman peeping tom, rather dumb and creepy, often spying on people in the bushes around Mrs. Chalmers' place, or popping up on Heather as she snoops around trying to uncover mysteries that are bothering her concerning a history uncertain to her. The house at night and where it's located(..in the boonies surrounded by rural wilderness with country roads leading to a minor little town with people who have known each other forever)are used rather well. And, the black cat Heather is frightened of is of major importance to the plot..it's a clever plot-device who sees a great deal and will lead others to the film's secret. Great scene where a body is discovered by a local girl swimming underwater in the watering hole nearby Mrs. Chalmer's place.
This is no doubt one of the best low-budget horror flicks that I have seen since SLEEPLESS. My copy of the tape was very old and I got it in some really huge box that was falling apart. My tape was slightly damaged and it made fuzzy noises throughout the movie. But this didn't bother me. I think I kinda enjoyed the fuzziness. It added to the campiness of the film. Making it look and sound older than it actually was. It all starts out when a young girl goes to visit her grandmother at her home which was recently a funeral home. Grandma wants to make her house into a motel for passers-by. And then some of the guests begin disappearing. If you want some good, campy fun of a horror film, then see FUNERAL HOME. You will be surprised........5/5.
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