A film that evokes William Fruet’s Funeral Home, along with Dan Curtis’s Burnt Offerings and Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm (via the old Dunsmuir House) gets a fast pass to the top of the streaming stack of films up for review in the B&S About Movies cubicle farm. Yeah, we’re all in on this feature film writing and directing debut by Mauro Iván Ojeda (who got his start with the short films La de Messi and La nueva biblia).
And no: this isn’t a remake the Fruet Canuxploiter. Remember, since that’s a Canadian film, its “polite” so as not to upset the video nasty police. And it’s not so much a funeral home in that movie as it is a haunted country inn that was once a funeral home — with supernatural unrest in its cellar. And while Fruet’s film holds a special place in our ’80s VHS hearts, Ojeda’s debut feature is easily the far superior film.
Bernardo is an undertaker who goes through his birth-school-work-death existence like a figurative zombie. While his wife Estela pops pills to deal with her depression, his step-daughter Irina — still mourning the loss of her father — rebels with a teenager’s vigor, frustrated with her mother and stepfather’s surrender to exist in a home with ghosts. They’ve given up: she wants to live . . . with her grandmother, who might be a witch who hates her new daughter-in-law and, it seems, cursed the family; grandma’s disdain carries over to her son Bernardo for taking up with Estela, who had a “history” with her late husband.
While the acting from all quarters is top-notch, the call-out actor of this horror-import is the just-starting-out-in-the-business Camila Vaccarini, as Irina. She’s absolutely stellar in her feature film debut, with only a supporting role in the Argentinian film Paisaje (2018) and a starring role in the Disney Channel Latinoamérica series Bia on her resume. Here’s to hoping Tinseltown calls her up to the major studios, courtesy of Ojeda crafting her an industry calling-card role.
While this Argentinean import (thankfully subtitled and not dubbed) is as well-shot as any box-office popular A24 (Midsommar) or Blumhouse (You Should Have Left) horror released into the mainstream American marketplace, Ojeda’s debut forgoes the gore and shock scares of those films, instead choosing to utilize set design, sound and shadows, along with (beautiful) cinematography and camera angles to convey the funeral home’s cold, insidious fear.
Unlike its major studio American horror brethren, The Funeral Home is not a film of gloss, but of the atmospherics we recall from our Amicus and Hammer Studios films of old. This is a film of metaphor, as we meet a family as decayed as the decrepit funeral home they reside in; this isn’t a family that’s living: they existing. This is a financially desperate, dysfunctional family of ironic, soul-filled vessels that are as empty and tortured as the (supernatural) spirits that haunt them. When you’re this miserable, shouldering sacks of your own ghosts and skeletons, who needs ghosts of the supernatural variety? Courtesy of the family’s new residence — as depicted in its U.S. artwork — we know this family deals with spirits of both the emotional and supernatural variety — as they come to discover the supernatural ones aren’t from the interred that have passed through their home’s mortuary over the years, but something much deeper that’s buried in their new home’s past.
You can enjoy this Spanish-language, Argentinean import from the fine folks of Uncork’d Entertainment and Orange Coast as of February 2, 2021, via all the usual online streaming platforms. Other recent Uncork’d releases through Orange Coast we’ve reviewed include A Clear Shot, Cry for the Bad Man, Dead by Dawn, The Dinner Party, Evil Little Things, Getaway, and A Nun’s Curse.
Disclaimer: We were provided a screener by the film’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review.