Deep in the recesses of the Amazon video library lies a gem of a 1980’s horror flick called Funeral Home. It’s a Canadian film about a girl named Heather (Lesleh Donaldson) who goes to live with her Grandmother Maude (Kay Hawtrey) for the summer to help her turn the family home into a bed and breakfast. It doesn’t take long for Heather to start hearing strange voices coming from the basement at night and for guests to start disappearing or turning up dead. Her grandmother is secretive about the mysterious voices and the disappearance of her husband, the undertaker. The house was once a funeral home and there are rumors that strange things occur there as part of that past. Predictably, it’s Heather’s 1980’s dream-boat love interest that pushes her to explore and get to the bottom of this small town mystery with the help of his police officer brother.
This movie tries. It tries really, really hard. It made a Farrah Fawcett reference though, so it gets points for that. I went into it really hoping it wasn’t a slasher films (because those really aren’t my cup of tea) as the impression I got from the synopsis hinted it might be. The ‘trailer’ gave me no clue, as it was basically just the opening 40 seconds of the movie. So I took my chances. While there is a bit of gore, this is another one of those wading into the shallow end kind of horror flicks. If you’re trying to build up your horror endurance? This one is definitely tame enough to fit the bill.
I found the acting to be pretty typical of this era in film. There are a couple of (what I hope are purposefully obnoxious) characters, and it’s definitely a bit laughable but has its genuinely amazing moments. And as I said earlier, a Farrah Fawcett reference for the win. The impressive performance in this really does go to Kay Hawtrey and her portrayal of Maude Chalmers, the wife of the old undertaker who disappeared a few years before. The plot is definitely on the predictable side (as in I figured it out 10 minutes into the film) but her progression as a character makes this one worth sitting through. It definitely moves slowly in the beginning, but the last 15 minutes of the movie show a depth of character acting that I found just brilliant.
Aside from Ms. Hawtrey’s performance, this does have some cheese factor. I would have liked to see a little bit more development of the funeral home aspect of it though. For a movie that is titled Funeral Home, it says surprisingly little about it. It comes into play a little bit as the plot takes its inevitable turns (definitely not much twisting), but it really is used as more of a background for the story.
Overall this is another one of those movies that is worth watching with a group of friends, a tub of popcorn and a light heart. Where you know that you can laugh and make fun of it, while still being at least mildly entertained. And if you get off track and get lost in a conversation? It won’t take much to catch up. This is another one that I’m going to file under give it the good ole MST3K treatment if you’re a veteran horror fan. If you’re a beginner? Definitely enough cheesiness for you to splash around in the shallow end while still getting a decent story line and a healthy dose of crazy.