Funeral Home (1980)
WRITER: Ida Nelson
DIRECTOR: William Fruet
STARRING: Kay Hawtry as Grandma
Lesleh Donaldson as Heather
Barry Morse as Mr. Davis
Dean Garbett as Rick
Stephen Miller as Billy Hibbs
Alfred Humphries as Joe
Peggy Mahon as Florie
Harvey Atkin as Harry
QUICK CUT: Heather returns to her grandmother's home for the summer, and help around the inn. Oh, and also, it used to be a funeral home. What could possibly go wrong?
Heather - A sweet young girl. I mean, come on, she's coming all the way to the middle of nowhere to help her grams run a B&B that used to be a funeral home. She's a little on the bland side for a character, but I've seen worse. She's curious and intuitive, at the least.
Grandma/Maude - Heather's grandmother, who has not been the same since her husband died. She's *very* moral, and doesn't like anything that God might disapprove of.
Rick - The love interest for Heather, whom she meets pretty randomly and can't get rid of. Was a bit of a mischief maker as a kid, but he's a decent enough teenager. Still wants to poke things more than he probably should though...
Billy - Rick's brother, a local deputy, and a bit of a joke around the department. He takes his job VERY seriously, when no one else does. He wants to find things out, and tends to look into things that are really nothing, giving him a reputation of trying too hard.
THE GUTS: Welcome back, Triskeions! Fall is right around the corner, and it's time to come back from my little unanticipated vacation in England. I think I'll head off to this little old bed and breakfast off in the country that used to be a funeral home...
Yes, that is the setup for this week's movie. A young woman comes to visit her grandmother, who has converted the old funeral home she used to run with her now-disappeared husband, into a quaint country inn. Or, as quaint as you can get with a place that used to be a *Funeral Home*.
Bonus points to the movie for having Lesleh Donaldson, who has now been in quite a few Triskings before.
Poor Heather gets dropped off at an intersection that's as much in the middle of nowhere as her grams' place. This seems like a terrible drop off point. In fairness, her grandmother's car wouldn't start, so she couldn't pick the girl up, but this is such a bad way to start the summer.
Fortunately, she gets picked up by local fellow teenager Rick, who drives her to the old place. And I love that the family is known as Chalmers the 'Balmers around town. That's pretty clever.
As Heather settles in, we hear about what a fine, upstanding, moral, religious man her grandfather was. Oh, and also, one day he just vanished. He was so upstanding and moral, I guess he was the only one plucked up to Heaven for the Rapture.
Meanwhile, Rick's brother, Joe, a newly minted deputy with the sheriff's department, has been called out to a farmer's field to investigate a brand new car that's been abandoned. Oh, and the owner of it has been missing for awhile. The Rapture strikes again!
Back at the Funeral Farms Family Inn, we meet some of the people who will be staying there, and dying. Ahhh, canon fodder. Oh, right, I mean "disappearing".
Oh, and down in the basement, Maude is hanging out with someone, and he's grumblinbg about not wanting kids around the house. I guess he didn't like that last batch, and their meddling dog.
Joe swings by the home to ask about the missing real estate agent, since he was trying to get Maude to sell the place, and move the cemetery. None of which her husband would have liked, nope.
We also learned, as did Maude, that her guests Mr. Browning and his wife, are actually Mr. Browning and his mistress, trying to sneak away from his missus. So, Maude wants them to check out today. Now. No, don't go into town, NOW!
After we establish there's a nice, deep, rocky quarry nearby for murdering to be done at, Mr. Browning's mistress Flo flirts with the Chalmers' not too bright handyman, Billy Hibbs.
Sigh, I hate this cliche. The hot woman flirting with the dim bulb for the express purpose of being mean. It's just really shitty, and I wouldn't blame Billy Ray Jim Dick if he was the killer and tossed her into the quarry.
Elsewhere, Joe is still looking into the missing realtor, and the sheriff is telling him to forget about it. Wow, hello worst cop ever. "People are missing? I'm not gonna look into that! I got coffee to drink!" Hazard County has better, more efficient police.
This movie is absolutely supposed to be set in the American midwest, but oh, those Canadian accents slip through here and there. And I love it. You're just casually going along, and then suddenly Rick shouts out, "Just you wait until mom hears aboat this!"
Meanwhile, the uh 'Brownings' have still yet to check out, despite Maude encouraging them to do so, and they head out to dance, get drunk, and be public nuisances.
At this point, they would be killed in almost any normal town, let alone a horror movie waiting to kill them. They head to the quarry where at least their drunk carousing won't annoy anyone else.
So finally the movie gets going after a third of the way in, when a mysterious person in the Chalmers' run down truck pushes Browning's car off the cliff and into the water below.
Meanwhile, Rick drops Heather off at the Funeral Inn, and she runs into grams who isn't happy she's been out late with *boys* and that's not proper, and your grandfather wouldn't approve if he was here!
Heather also returned home to see Maude coming out of the basement, and she gets warned to stay out of there. So of course Heather immediately tries to sneak down that night when everyone is asleep, to find the door locked shut. Huh, I thought I already reviewed Don't Look in the Basement?
The next day, she's cleaning rooms, and discovers the Brownings never used theirs, and are already gone, with all their stuff. Just another good time Rapturing in Killsville!
Maude takes another visitor into town while she makes deliveries, and watches him head to visit the police. Meanwhile, the kids are sneaking around and trying to get into the garage. They find Mr. Chalmers abandoned car, and a necklace, all while Billy Bob watches from the shadows. Oh man, he is SO the killer!!
Later, the kids are hanging out in Rick's van, and Heather asks about her grandfather, since she only met him a few times. We get a fun little flashback to Rick and Joe sneaking around the funeral home as kids, because of course a funeral home is gonna be the next best thing to the local haunted house to dare people to poke around in.
But Chalmers shows up and tosses them down in the basement, since they wanted to see it so bad, and chase them around the dark halls and funeral equipment. He comes off as a mean, bitter old man, and a drunk. Heather doesn't want to believe it, and I suspect there's some truth to it, but it's also heightened by kids' memories of a bad event.
The weirdness continues as Heather hears more voices coming up from the basement that night and she makes the mistake of sneaking around the house. Not that anything happens, but y'know, creeping around the still creepy former funeral home isn't great for the nerves.
She actually gets into the basement and listens to her grandmother chatting with the unpaying guest staying down there, until she knocks over a jar and has to make a run for it. She hurries back to her bed and fakes being asleep just in time for her Grams to make sure she wasn't the one sneaking around.
We catch back up with Mr. Davis, still lurking around town, and find out he's hiding a secret; his wife is one of the people who have gone missing in this supposedly quiet Cana...American town.
Heather and Rick head into town to make some flower deliveries, and she asks about her gramps mysterious disappearance, but Rick tells her that everyone knows he ran off with another woman.
Yeah, that doesn't go over well. Her grandfather has always been played as a saint to her, and she doesn't believe a word of his bad behaviour. Oh, and the affair also led to her grandmother having a nervous breakdown.
But more fuel is added to that passionate fire when Mr. Davis asks Maude about his missing wife, Helena, who went missing around the same time as Mr. Chalmers.
We then get another flashback, this time to the affair, as seen from someone in town who caught them making out in the funeral home's kitchen. Come on, people eat and die and get embalmed in there!
Heather overhears all this, and realises the necklace she found, with the initials HD, must have belonged to a High Definition teleivision...errr, Helen Davis! She runs to the garage to double check, but finds it has been closed up with brand new locks to keep snoopy kids out who might figure out that for someone who went missing, he sure did leave a big car behind.
Mr. Davis comes back from some fishing to find a shovel that hits his face repeatedly. Well, add one more body to the pile of missing persons the cops won't investigate. But once the bodies of Mr. Browning and Flo are found in the quarry by some swimming kids, they finally have no choice.
Joe stops by at Deathly Farms to chat with Maude, and I am amused by the cop having a casual cup of coffee and cookies with the suspects. And she tries and laugh off his wanting to see the room, and the back country charm of, "Oh gosh, I have known you since you were a kid!" is fun.
But Joe continues to be an Actually Competent Cop and insists she show him the Brownings' room. I gotta say, I really kinda love Joe. It's rare when you see a cop who wants to do his job, is good at it, and might figure shit out.
Of course, he doesn't FIND anything, and he'd like to talk to Mr. Davis but OOPS he's left too! Darn those pesky Raptures.
Heather is still pretty insistent about getting down into the basement, sure that her grandmother is hiding SOMEONE down there...
And it's at this point where I start going, oh. Oh no. Missing husband. It's clearly gotta be the snapped grandma. Funeral home. Enbalmed dead bodies. This movie is gonna pull a Psycho, isn't it?
Meanwhile, our other prime suspect, Billy Boy is chasing the cat that's been running all throughout this movie, and follows it into the basement. So, we're going for everything colliding here at once, I see.
As he stumbles around, he eventually gets stabbed in the back with some enbalming tools. So...it's definitely not Bilbo.
The kids return home to the wide open basement, and can't resist investigating. Of course, Rick said he'd help Heather check things out, so this should've been on their to do list anyways. Oh, and also they interupt the disposal of Billy Body.
What they DO find is Billy's corpse, and Rick is immediately grabbed and thrashed around by someone ranting and yelling and they clearly want us to think that Grandpa Chalmers has been locked up in the basement. At least for five more seconds before 'he' turns around and reveals Maude.
Gasp. Shock. Surprise. But okay fine, points for playing fair, and the story actually tracks.
I guess that nervous breakdown was a little more serious than the doctors originally suspected, huh? Yeah, swapping back and forth and being confused as to who she is and what's going on, probably should've stayed under someone's care a LITTLE longer.
The acting here is really good. Maude changes on a dime from angry to confused, and her trashing the basement is just the right amount of terrifying, because it's both of those personalities thrashing around. And grabbing an axe just makes it all the more harrowing.
But the question remains, are we still gonna go full Psycho here? And yes, yes we are, as the movie reveals Mr. Chalmer's icky corpse that Maude's been having late night chats on morality with.
They even have Maude outright smack a lightbulb with her hand to make it swing, just in case you didn't get what they were ripping off.
Of all things, Maude gets distracted by the cat, and becomes herself again, long enough for Joe to come by and check things out. While other cops STILL don't believe him and thinks he should let this go.
It's...rather anticlimactic. The cops show up, Maude is lucidly herself, and happy to see her husband, and invites everyone up for tea! I kinda LIKE that there isn't more of a fight, we had enough of that, but it is a bit of a fizzley wrap up.
The credits roll over Joe talking to a reporter, explaining the plot in case anyone didn't really get it yet. Oh, and the cat is STILL there, "What are you doing on my brand new car, eh?" CANADAMERICA!
Video: Aughghghhugh. This just looks bad. It's clearly your typical half-assed converted from a VHS copy, I'm sure of it. Which is a shame. If this looked good, had some decent colour and shadow depth to it, the atmosphere might be amazing.
Audio: Definitely the better of the two, but I can't say much for the basic mono track.
Sound Bite: "She lives in the past, always talking about my grandfather, giving his opinion on everything. Almost like he's still alive!" ...Almost, Heather!
Body Count: You would think a murder mystery at a funeral home might rack up the bodies a lot more than this one did...
1 & 2 - After 32 minutes, someone finally dunks Mr. Browning and his mistress Flo into the quarry.
3 - Mr. Davis takes a shovel to the face.
4 - Poor Billy Hibbs gets stabbed in the back.
5 - We meet the long-dead Mr. Chalmers.
Best Corpse: The very Psycho-esque Mr. Chalmers, of corpse. How can I not go with the giant rotten skull in a suit?
Blood Type - D-: Very very light on the blood, and what little there is kinda fades into the murky video. But I do give a few minor points to the decent mummy like Chalmers the 'Balmer.
Sex Appeal: Ummm, Heather in a bathing suit is as deep as that goes.
Drink Up! Every time you catch a rogue Canadianism.
Video Nasties: I debated skipping this, and *maybe* I should've highlighted the end of the movie, but I hate blowing the whole point of a movie if I can avoid it. But Davis's death isn't bad, and it shows you to never trust someone trying to blind you with a flashlight and carrying a shovel. Or something. MAN this movie is dark...
Movie Review: Hmmm, I am torn on this movie. On the one hand, the plot's pretty decent. I mean, it worked for Psycho. The parallels are numerous, and I won't get into them. There's a reason it's classic. And this is not a bad updating of the ideas. But holy potatoes is it slooooow. There's some decent character work, although no one really stands out, but they're likable enough. Well, except for Flo. But you know what I mean. It's harmless enough, and the movie is well made, and uses the atmosphere of the rural setting and former Funeral Home to decent effect. It's far from terrible, but it doesn't bring much new to the table, in a competent enough little movie. Three out of five drowned cars.
Entertainment Value: I had some fun with this movie, but not as much as some others. The random Canadianisms that sneak through are a general source of amusement. The acting isn't bad, but Maude's over the top conservative nature and constant talking about her husband and how this and that is wrong, is fun and just the right amount of over the top. The final act is solid and she really brings the menace and multiple personalities. A fun ride, all told. Three out of five missing tenants.