Wicked Wednesday: Funeral Home (1980)

funeralhome

I don’t spread enough love to Canadians. Many of the films I’ve quite enjoyed over the course of Wicked Wednesday have been Canadian movies, so I’m never sure why I don’t want more.

Funeral Home was directed by William Fruet, who also directed the film Goin’ Down the Road, a film that remains quite an iconic Canadian film. I have to admit, not much of the relevance carries on into Funeral Home, unfortunately, though it is pretty decent film much of the time.

Heather (played by Lesleh Donaldon, who I barely recognised from Happy Birthday to Me) is spending the summer with her grandma, helping her run a “tourist home” in a converted funeral home. Grandma Maude hasn’t been quite right since her husband, Heather’s grandfather, has disappeared.

On Heather’s way to her grandmother’s house, she hitches a ride from Rick, who will yes become her boyfriend and yes his brother is the only sane policeman in the town.

Grandma, played excellently by Kay Hawtrey in a mixture of strict obedience and genuine charm, is a bit of a stick in the mud though. She chides her granddaughter when she stays out too late and for some reason is really invested in telling her guests how to live their lives despite not knowing them. The cast of characters that the tourist home attracts isn’t always to Grandma’s liking, particularly the salesman who stays the weekend with his mistress. Despite her kicking them out for their infidelity, the couple keep hanging around anyway.

The mistress is sort of a minx character, always hanging around and teasing poor Billy, the Lennie-esque farmhand. Heather shows the woman the local quarry, but its eventually where she meets her demise in the car with her mister.

Grandma is interviewed by local policeman and Rick’s brother, Joe, after the car of a developer is found under a bale of hay in a local farm. Unlike his fellow policeman, Joe is pretty convinced that all the local disappearances are connected to one person.

But mostly Grandma is just a lonely old woman who is obsessed with her missing (and likely dead) husband. She tells rambling stories about him, like how he never allowed anyone to take pictures of the deceased besides the family of one boy (don’t worry, this story doesn’t actually matter). And every time Heather does something, Grandma has to tell her off by sharing what Grandpa would have thought.

See where this is going?

Heather and Rick decide to snoop around the house. Heather admits that she’s heard her Grandma talking to someone in the night, but she won’t tell Heather who. During their search, they find a necklace engraved with initials that either kid know.

 

One of Grandma’s lodgers is Mr Davis. He is a sort of long-term tenant at the house. His motive is later revealed when he goes to the police station to talk to Joe. He explains to a different policeman that his wife had gone missing ages ago, and her last whereabouts were connect to the small town.

It seems to small coincidence when Rick tells Heather that her Grandfather isn’t missing, but rather ran away with a woman. It’s also not a coincidence that the initials on the necklace Heather founds match that of Mr Davis’s wife’s name.

Also, Mr Davis soon goes “missing” too.

While much of Funeral Home builds quiet well on suspense, it quickly makes sure to throw that out of the window and spoil everything in the last act. Billy, chasing the ominous black cat that appears everywhere in the movie, gets stabbed when he enters the cellar where Grandma likes to have her late-night chats.

Heather and Rick enter the cellar after to find Billy’s body. Rick is then attacked by an unseen person. Heather, being weak as fuck, just watches and screams. She eventually faces off against the assailant, who is in fact her grandmother… acting and speaking as Grandpa.

Yes, just like Psycho. Only, you know, not as shocking when you see it in a different film. Even worse is when Heather finds Grandpa’s corpse… Painful.

Funeral Home starts so strong that you almost get too high of expectations for it, which makes it hurt even more when it falls so hard on its cliched and recycled ending. There were a few missed opportunities (like why keep mentioning Heather’s mother if this isn’t leading anywhere? – she’s like the new friend your best friend makes when she goes to college. She’ll talk about her all the time, but you’ll never meet the bitch). And a number of plotholes, like the weird subplot about the developer that goes into too much detail for being just another victim.

But I do think that this film still is charming in its own Canadian ways that makes for a bit of a lasting impression. The version I watched on Shudder was a bit appalling, which makes me think someone needs to rescue and remaster this film into a more watchable version as soon as possible.

But also, the fuck was up with that black cat in every other scene? Did I miss something? Is THAT Grandpa??

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