Canadian Psycho?

A comfortable rural atmosphere lends an eerie helping hand to Funeral Home, a Canadian thriller from the early 1980s with a hint of Psycho and sprinkles of other horror tropes for good measure. Lesleh Donaldson (Happy Birthday to Me) and character actress Kay Hawtrey star in a film which feels a decade older than its actual age, somewhat out of step with its fellow horror movie contemporaries.

Loaded with red herrings galore, actual murders are few and far between in Funeral Home’s slowly developing story. A few hokey murders are scattered throughout the shaggy dog story. Admittedly, one twist works brilliantly in an inspired ending which goes all out in its psychotic fury. The stodgy pacing is a drawback which can be overlooked if the quaint mysteries grab you early.

If not for a fantastic ending, Funeral Home would likely be forgotten today

Young Heather (Lesleh Donaldson) spends the summer with her grandmother Maude Chalmers (Kay Hawtrey). Maude is hoping to turn her former funeral home property into a cozy bed-and-breakfast vacation spot for tourists.

Disturbing incidents and a rash of unexplained murders start happening in the sleepy town. Black cats, dimwitted gardeners, missing developers, and a few colorful city folk visiting the weekend getaway raise plenty of questions for Heather. Falling for a local boy, she begins investigating what’s happening on her grandmother’s creepy property.

Funeral Home, also known as Cries In the Night in certain markets, was throwback filmmaking even when it first premiered. Directed by Canadian William Fruet, the independent film was actually shot at the tail end of the 1970s and didn’t pick up much life until later on television and home video. The cheap, disposable indie horror flick came and went without much acclaim.

Only a few murders are shown, aiming for a less gory approach common in early ‘70s horror mysteries before Halloween and Friday the 13th forever changed genre fans’ expectations. The R-rating is a reach. That was likely earned on the back of its signature scene, a mesmerizing climax when the killer is fully revealed in a psychotic flurry of terror.

Kay Hawtrey makes the film memorable, a skillful portrait of an older woman who has lost her husband and looking for a fresh start by opening this business with her granddaughter’s help. Lesleh Donaldson is the fresh-faced teen lead who serves as Funeral Home’s protagonist but it’s more of an ensemble effort with a largely forgotten Canadian cast filling in the other spaces.

If you’re looking for a crazed, campy teen slasher with gory special effects, Funeral Home isn’t your bag. The slow-moving mystery builds suspense with its backwoods atmosphere and folksy rural characters. If not for a fantastic ending, Funeral Home would likely be forgotten today. It’s not a lost cult classic but a steady piece of horror suspense from a less graphic era.

Video

The main feature runs 92 minutes on a BD-50, encoded in solid AVC without serious problems. Scream Factory issues Funeral Home on Blu-ray for the first time anywhere, avoiding any mention of what materials they used for this new HD transfer. Some information indicates the transfer is struck from the camera negative though that isn’t confirmed. It’s not a perfect, jaw-dropping 1.85:1 presentation but overall grants Funeral Home a huge leap in clarity and definition over dodgy VHS and older DVDs.

Fine detail is abundant in the print with mostly pleasing color reproduction. I’d guess the transfer is a slightly older 2K effort from an early distribution print. Sharp enough in spots with a decent contrast, the film scan hasn’t been low-pass filtered. It’s a film-like, if a tad dull, presentation from serviceable elements. Black levels are steady enough though shadow delineation is hit or miss. Some telecine wobble and a little pulsing in one particular scene are the biggest distractions.

The low-budget thriller likely can’t look much better and it doesn’t appear if the surviving elements justify a 4K release. I wouldn’t expect Scream Factory or anyone else to give us Funeral Home in 4K, there just isn’t enough raw video quality to justify it.

Audio

The 2.0 DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack has its rough spots. Jerry Fielding’s modest score sounds acceptable but the overall recording is a hissy, congested mess of limitations. Dialogue is weak and recessed. Limited dynamics and unimpressive sound effects fall apart like a wet paper bag. Call this serviceable at best and call it a day.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font. Isolated parts of the score are available as a secondary track.

Extras

Scream Factory issues Funeral Home on Blu-ray for the first time in the world with a slipcover featuring new artwork. This special edition is loaded with all-new special features exclusive to this disc.

Audio Commentary With Film Historians Jason Pichonsky And Paul Corupe

Isolated Score Selections & Audio Interview With Music Historian Douglass Fake – Another alternate audio track

Audio Interviews With Actor Lesleh Donaldson, First Assistant Director Ray Sager, And Production Assistant Shelley Allen – These actually play as a commentary track over the film.

“Secrets & Shadows” (15:46 in HD) – Interview With Director Of Photography Mark Irwin

“Dead & Breakfast” (13:39 in HD) – Interviews With Art Director Susan Longmire And Set Assistant Elinor Galbraith

“Family Owned & Operated” (12:34 in HD) – Interview With Brian Allen, President Of Premier Drive-In Theatres

Original Filming Location Footage (06:34 in HD)

Theatrical Trailer (01:50 in SD)

Video Trailer (01:44 in SD)

TV Spots (01:05 in SD)

Radio Spots (02:18)

Still Gallery (04:53 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

Funeral Home
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

Derivative Canadian horror title from the early 1980s with a psychotic killer on the warpath saved by a splashy ending

Sending
User Review
0 (0 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 33 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots ripped directly from the Blu-ray:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *