The movie I’m going to write about is kind of a big deal because it’s, quite possibly, one of the first movies in my Fifty Chilling Classics collection that I genuinely enjoyed and would watch again. Daaayyyum, Funeral Home, what are you doing in this collection? Why don’tcha come home with me, baby? You can ride in my Trans-Am. ;]
Nineteen-eighty’s Canadian slasher-lite turned out to be a distinct surprise. I just wish that I could get a better transfer because, true to Mills Creek tradition, the version I have looks like it was filmed through a lens made of chocolate milk.
Oh, Funeral Home, I even love your opening title, even if it does look like a moderate rip-off of the original Black Christmas.
Heather is a teenager visiting her grandma for the summer to help her renovate the family’s old funeral home into a bed and breakfast. Or a “tourist house,” as they call it. I’ve never heard that term before, it must be some of that wacky Canadian english. But there are some weird things going on at grandma’s house. There’s the creepy groundskeeper, Billy Hibbs, whose performance makes Mickey in The Screaming Skull look quiet and dignified.
There’s this black cat that won’t stop following Heather around. I swear, it’s like the cat is the Greek chorus.
And there’s the nasty fact that people just keep disappearing. The police chief dismisses the disappearances as people wanting to run away but rookie officer, Joey, won’t let them go. Heather becomes aware of the disappearances and starts to become suspicious. Actually, I guess you could say that the first disappearance was Heather’s grandpa. That’s why grandma is converting the funeral home. Then, a severely gross couple disappears from the “tourist home.” But first we get to see the woman, Florie, try to seduce Billy Hibbs in an awkward, five-minute-long scene.
I guess nobody told the guy playing Billy Hibbs about the dangers of going full retard.
When Heather hears grandma talking to someone in the basement, her and her boyfriend, Rick, decide to go into Nancy Drew-mode and eventually find out grandma’s dark secret. I don’t really want to give it away here. I can tell you that while I had an idea of what it was going to be, the ending was still kind of surprising and kind of sick. There were some moderate scares, mostly jump scares, but it’s still tense and fun to watch. I didn’t find myself watching the clock and praying for the movie to end like I usually do. There were also some supremely goofy moments. I can almost, maybe kind of support them. I think that it was Tobe Hooper that said that horror movies should have a little bit of comedy in them because real life is funny, and that makes the movie more realistic and, hence, scarier. So I can maybe support a scene where Joe the cop steps in cow dook.
The music is ok, mostly some piano mixed with synthesizers. I wish that they stuck mostly with the piano and silence because that’s when the movie is at its creepiest. I did like the addition of creepy religious hymns playing on grandma’s radio.
Finally, the acting wasn’t terrible. Some of it was community theater grade, but it was mostly earnest and not as cringe-inducing as it could be. Kay Hawtrey is actually intimidating and creepy as grandma, but also manages to be warm and grandmotherly. Lesleh Donaldson plays the heroine, Heather, and makes her sweet and likeable. I like the movie because it’s early enough in the slasher genre that it’s not all about the boobies–in fact, there’s no nudity, unless you count bathing suits. Heather is a capable final girl and her performance is engaging, especially considering the material she’s working with. There are definitely some clunky lines, like when grandma declares that Billy Hibbs isn’t to bright so she lets him live in a shed. Niiiiice.
So, I’d recommend this movie if you’re into quirky slashers. Especially since it falls into one of my favorite categories, that I think is underappreciated, the killer old people slashers. Whether it’s American Gothic or the Belgian(!) Troma pic Rabid Grannies, I love killer old people.