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Funeral Home Movie Review

Updated on July 4, 2012


“Funeral Home”, a 1980 horror feature film that blends mystery and suspense, starts off with Heather, a cute high school student getting off the bus, after her trip out into the country. Rick Yates is driving his van and sees her walking with her suitcase along a rural country road and stops to offer her a ride. Heather accepts and they drive on down the road. She asks him if he knows where the Chalmers place is? Rick answers, “Not Chalmers, the embalmers.” Heather then tells him that she is going to spend the summer with her grandmother to help her run a tourist home, which has recently been converted from the family’s old funeral home.

Rick and Heather begin dating and she tells him of the strange happenings at her grandmother’s place. Rick tries to tell Heather about his own memories of her grandparents and their funeral home over the years. However, Heather gets annoyed with Rick when he speaks about her grandparents, not in the best of light, and she refuses to hear or believe any of it.

Different guests stay at the tourist home during the summer weeks. Those that seem to offend grandmother with their crass and wild ways disappear and/or meet with a violent end. When grandma is asked about the missing guests, she simply says they are tourists and moved on. But we know better.

The question is who is killing off the guests? Is there a serial killer on the loose? Is it the strange, quiet, mentally challenged handyman who lives in the barn garage behind grandma’s tourist home or perhaps one of the other guests who is staying there? Could it be grandmother herself? Or is the not so friendly grandfather really not missing after all and he is the one doing the killing? Could it be one of the townspeople? We are left guessing until the very end.


“Funeral Home” was filmed in rural locations in Ontario, Canada during the sweltering heat of summer. The movie captures the very essence of what summer up in the country is all about. The locations are lush green with rolling hills, shrubbery, farms, fields and woods that surround it all. There are plenty of bright blue skies and daily sunshine. There is even a local rock quarry where everyone goes swimming and fishing in the lake. Summer nights are shown on the screen as romantic, muggy and filled with the sounds of crickets and other creatures of the night.


The acting is quite good and the performances come by as very natural. You really feel like you get to know the characters and can relate to them. Fine acting of particular note is given by the character portrayals of Rick Yates (Dean Garbett), Heather (Lesleh Donaldson), Joe Yates (Alfred Humphreys), grandmother Maude Chalmers (Kay Hawtry) and Mr. Davis (Barry Morse). It is a shame that Actor Dean Garbett did not continue on in movies after “Funeral Home”, his performance as Rick was very real and memorable.


Mr. Davis is a friendly, older character that is staying at the bed-n-breakfast inn. We find out later that he is looking for his missing wife and there is a deeper mystery involving her, the funeral home and the other disappearances. Barry Morse plays the character of Mr. Davis with just the right amount of emotion and reaction to the other characters.

Joe Yates, Rick’s older brother, has recently become a cop. He and Rick have lived in this same small town their whole life. No one takes Joe seriously since they just look at him as the local kid that became a police officer. Joe wants to solve the case of the recent disappearances in their town, but the sheriff wants him to concentrate on handing out parking tickets instead and reminds him that he is still on probation. Everyone in the town, including Joe’s two fellow cops, feels the disappearances are nothing out of the ordinary but Joe thinks murder may be involved. If he can solve the case, Joe feels he will get the respect he deserves.


Director of Photography Mark Irwin, A.S.C., C.S.C. does a superb job with the lensing of the film and the eerie look he gives it. He came up as David Cronenberg’s regular cinematographer over the years, shooting such horror/sci-fi classics for him in Canada as “Scanners” and “The Brood”. Irwin eventually moved to Los Angeles and shot popular horror comedies including “Fright Night II”, the remake of “The Blob” and more mainstream Hollywood comedies like “Dumb And Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary”. His work as a horror cinematographer has always been excellent.

The dark, creepy nighttime lighting adds much to the film’s atmosphere. The camera is always moving and creeping in on characters as well as giving the funeral home a mysterious, foreboding feeling. Daytime is captured on film with rich, vibrant color and the summer nights have a dark, silvery blue color to emulate the moonlight. Cold fluorescent lighting and warm, yellowish tones are used in “Funeral Home” to represent the lamps and kitchen lighting in grandmother’s country house.


The movie was written by Ida Nelson and produced and directed by William Fruet. The film’s writing and directing is excellent and the camera is used very visually to tell the story. Flashback sequences are well done with heavy fog/diffusion filters used to make the older images bloom out and distinguish them from present day. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film classic “Psycho” and its use of split personality does have an influence on 1980’s “Funeral Home”, but “Funeral Home” is its own movie. The film makes us feel relaxed and at ease with the country setting and characters, but then when we least expect it, “whammo” and a character is attacked in “Funeral Home”. As for the violence it delivers and there is assault and death by stabbing, shovel, truck, drowning, even embalming tools.


“Funeral Home” is a fun filled, mysterious horror film that can be watched again and again, especially in early summer or when one misses summer, particularly up at the grandparent’s cottage in the country. But how well do you really know your grandparents or their neighbors? Is life out in the summer cottage as peaceful and tranquil as you thought or could more be going on there than you realized involving missing persons, murder and the macabre?



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