Funeral Home

Year: 1980
Director: William Fruet
Cast: Lesleh Donaldson, Kay Hawtrey, Alf Humphries, Barry Morse
Fright Meter Award Winner: Best Supporting Actress

Young Heather (Lesleh Donaldson) arrives to spend the summer with her grandmother, who has recently turned her old funeral home, where years earlier Grandpa disappeared into a bed and breakfast.. Almost immediately upon her arrival, strange things being to happen. She hears noises and conversations coming from the basement in the middle of the night, and people-mainly unruly or nosy guests-begin to disappear. Grandma dismisses the incidents as Heather's imagination, but when Heather and her young summer love interest begin nosing around too much, the truth about Grandma and the Funeral Home is revealed in a frenzied climax that undoubtedly will remind you of Psycho, as anyone who has seen Hitchcock's classic will figure out where this film is heading rather quickly.

Funeral Home is a slow burn. It's pacing leaves a lot to be desired, but with that said, it is still an exceptional little horror film that really has the nostalgic 80's feel to it. Simply put...they don't make horror movies like this anymore. It's full of atmosphere and tension that we just don't see anymore and even though the ending can be seen from a block away, it is still shocking simply because of its execution. The acting is way above average. Kay Hawtley as Grandma steals the film in a performance that reminds me of Susan Tyrell's Aunt in another early 80's slasher Night Warning. Donaldson, who gave some great supporting performances in other 80's slashers (Curtains, Happy Birthday to Me) gets the chance to shine in a lead role where she is extremely likable (she was nominated for Canada's version of the Oscar for this performance). The creepy noises in the basement are disturbing, and though the gore factor and body count is low, the film still emerges as one of the more competent and creepy slasher films from this era.

With that said, this film will not be for everyone. Current youngsters who have been brought up on the Hostel's and Saw's and think of those as stellar slasher flicks (which they are...for today) will probably not be able to sit through this because of the slow plot. The film also looks extremely dated, but in a way, that adds to the creepiness. The ending is predictable and I was perplexed at how the "killer" seemed to decide not to kill the main girl through no reason or negotiation. There was no fight, no other person there at the time to stop the lead from being killed...the killer just seems to have a change of heart and puts down the axe. It's like the filmmakers were running out of time and didn't want to film a long chase sequence, so they just decided to have the killer decide not to kill the nosy heroine after all, even though there is every opportunity to do so. Is really was the only WTF? moment to be found in this otherwise good film. Check it to see what I believe the golden age of the slasher film looked liked.

Fright Meter Grade:

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