Funeral Home from 1980 is a murder mystery starring the lovely Lesleh Donaldson (Curtains, Deadly Eyes). As the film begins, Donaldson’s Heather is dropped off in an unnamed rural American town (in actuality Elora, Ontario) bags in hand. Seems she’s been tasked with helping her Grandma, Mrs. Chalmers, turn the former family funeral home into a “Tourist Home.”
As Heather walks down the long path to the house (why the cabbie couldn’t just drop her off in front of the door we couldn’t say) she spots a black cat that follows her until a blue van pulls up and the motorist offers her a ride. She jumps in the car – as relieved to be saved from the ferocious feline as she would had it been Leatherface chasing her instead.
The motorist is young Rick whose brother Joe works as the town’s deputy sheriff. Heather and Rick strike up a fast friendship and she is dropped off in front of the home which looks quite similar to the haunted Bayou mansion in Fulci’s The Beyond. She is greeted by Mrs. Chalmers, who from the looks of things doesn’t really need the help as the tourist house is hopping with more guests staying there than do on an average episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Hotel Hell.
Grandma, who has quite the flower fetish, needs the assistance as she’s all alone in this cold, cruel world after her husband upped and disappeared. Come to think of it, many have upped and disappeared in the small town although the local sheriff doesn’t seem too concerned. Deputy Joe does though and conducts his own investigation, especially after two of Mrs. Chalmer’s guests also go missing (they’re actually at the bottom of the local swimming quarry, having been pushed off the edge by an unknown motorist.)
Grandma does have some other help in the form of the cemetery caretaker Billy who lives in a shed behind the house and who’s “not very bright” as are most caretakers in films from this era. Besides serving as an obvious red herring, Billy also bears an uncanny resemblance to Donnie Wahlberg.
Strange noises and conversations emanating from the basement pique Heather’s curiosity and lead her to think that all may not be right with Grandma.
Funeral Home has a relatively low body count and minimal grue. Plus, for a murder mystery, the film has a resolution that a myopic could see on a foggy day (to mention which Hitchcock film Funeral Home pays homage to/rips off would be to spoil the dénouement completely.) Still, the film has a certain charm and Kay Hawtry overacts just the right amount to make her portrayal of Grandma Chalmers a hoot. As such, Funeral home is worth a short stay.
*** (out of five)