The Funeral Home Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Uncork'd Entertainment
Written and directed by Mauro Iván Ojeda
2020, 86 minutes, Not Rated
Released on January 29th, 2021
Luis Machín as Bernardo
Celeste Gerez as Estela
Camila Vaccarini as Irina
Hugo Arana as Salvador
Pablo Pevereli as Padre Irina
Graciela Bonomi as Abuela
Susana Varela as Ramona
The life of an undertaker is, by its very nature, a bit different than everyone else. Living right next to your work can also be a bit of a hassle. Now let’s suppose that the people you see the most – the dead – aren’t exactly quiet. It’s starting to sound like a shitty gig, right? That’s just the jumping off point for The Funeral Home (La Funeraria), the admittedly uncut gem of a debut from Argentinian director Mauro Iván Ojeda.
Bernardo (Luis Machín; Necrophobia 3D) lives his work. He’s an undertaker who operates a funeral home adjacent to his family home. The living clients aren’t the only ones he can’t get away from, however – the dead are extremely active with Bernardo, as well as his wife, Estela (Celeste Gerez), and stepdaughter, Irina (Camila Vaccarini). It’s tearing apart a new family that each came into the arrangement with their own various sets of emotional baggage and abuse. The property is literally split in half; a red line separates the “safe space” from the spaces where the various presences hold sway. A local witch named Ramona (Susana Varela) has been helping keep the line strong, but something new has entered the funeral home. As dark secrets come to light, the family will have to fight to keep from becoming permanent residents.
The Funeral Home lays the mood and atmosphere on heavy from the opening tracking shot, a rather lovely affair that takes you around the property. On one side of the line is some light and happiness. On the other side of the line all is dark, gray, worn, and dead. The film actually relies quite heavily on tracking shots and background horror, counterbalanced by The Sixth Sense-esque moments of fright that will give you a decent chill. It’s truly effective, even if it is a bit of a one-trick pony stylistically.
While it may not be trying to break new ground in both the haunting and possession aspects of the story, that doesn’t mean that The Funeral Home is derivative or clichéd. It’s a darkly gorgeous film that echoes the aforementioned The Sixth Sense as well as The Orphanage. The musical cues are on point, and the tension builds in a fashion that’s just erratic enough to make you feel some real unease. Simply put, it’s a film that does one thing one way but does it with just the right amount of attitude and flair.
The family dynamic is so strong between Bernardo, Estela, and Irina, it occasionally overpowers the ghostly happenings early on. This is a tense family situation even without help from the restless dead, so it legitimately makes a potent mix when the demon’s arrival turns up the intensity. What you do see of the demon screams of homage to Lamberto Bava’s Demons, and if you’re anything like me then that will have you grinning from ear to ear. Give props where they’re due, right?
The Funeral Home has a damn strong finish after using the range of haunting tropes (moving furniture, crazy lights, impressions in the bed, ghostly messages) and progressing into more of a straight possession flick. Some extraneous characters muddy the waters a tad (along with a smattering of interpretive dance!), but why complain about a higher body count? The closing moments are frankly lovely and haunting as the story comes full circle.
It’s not a perfect film, but The Funeral Home is one hell of an auspicious debut from Mauro Iván Ojeda that will age extremely well. That’s the cool thing about haunted house stories – they’re great at showing you what the writer/director has up their sleeve.
It appears that Ojeda has some seriously long sleeves.
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