Chilling Classics Cthursday: FUNERAL HOME (1980)

Chilling Classics Cthursday: FUNERAL HOME (1980)

When I tell you how simultaneously pumped and confused I was when Funeral Home's number came up for this week's CHILLLING installment! (And yes, before you ask: Pumped and Confused is my favorite Linklater film.) 

Pumped because it's Funeral Home, duh. I love it. Like the Millennium Falcon, she ain't got much but she's got it where it counts, kid. Confused because I thought surely I have written about Funeral Home before. But after some furious computer hacking, I discovered that I haven't. Nary a mention to be found. Not even in Final Girl's earliest days, when this place was solely about slasher films and I reported on every one I could lay my greasy eyeballs on, like I was a horror blog version of Cynthia Rothrock as the lady reporter in that movie Lady Reporter. Okay, yes, I could never dare to dream that I am like Cynthia Rothrock on any level. However, should I ever hit my head on a tree, I do hope it results in my becoming psychic as happened to Cynthia Rothrock in Sworn to Justice.

You know what, let me course correct before I end up talking about Cynthia Rothrock all day. I am here to discuss Funeral Home, a film that features a lot but does not feature Cynthia Rothrock. But if it did! Can you imagine--

Funeral Home (aka Cries in the Night) does boast bona fide Canadian slasher royalty in star Lesleh Donaldson of Curtains and Happy Birthday to Me, and director William Fruet, who brought us Death Weekend and most importantly a little something called Killer Party. Talk about a movie I love! And with any Killer Party mention, I am legally and morally obligated to post the movie's theme song, as sung by Jennifer, Phoebe, and Vivia.

Not to get off track again, but what if Cynthia Rothrock sang the theme song to any one of her movies...?

In Funeral Home, Donaldson stars as Heather, a teenager who's spending the summer out in the country at her grandma's place, a former funeral home that she's converted to a "tourist home." For those of us who don't speak Canadian, that means a it's now a bed and breakfast.

On her way to grandma's, Heather encounters the most delightful cat you will ever see in your life. This cat meows and meows and meows all cutely at Heather, and starts to follow her. This is the kind of cat I dream of running into out in the wild or literally anywhere at any time! Okay yes I dream of running into any cat of course, but this is the kind of cat who wants to hang out and JUST LOOK AT HER COULD YOU DIE.

For her part, Heather is not as enthusiastic as I.

She glares, tells the cat to shoo, and literally gets into a man's van just to get away from the cat faster.

Now look, I don't have to personally identify with a character in a horror movie to feel something for them, root for them, or what have you. But Heather's shunning of that friendly-ass cat is so anathema to me that I always find myself saying "Well, I guess I am rooting for the killer, unless of course the killer is Heather, in which case I won't." Mind you, ever since I saw this for the first time I know who the killer is and whether or not it's Heather, but I like to drive the point home regardless.

Grandma needs the extra help since her husband mysteriously vanished a while ago. In fact, there have been several missing persons reported missing after paying a visit to "Chalmers the embalmers" as Grandma and Grandpa were known around town. Now that it's a bed and breakfast tourist home, the influx of guests means more people will "check out" and go missing.

Heather becomes a somewhat-reluctant Nancy Drew, not wanting to believe the less-savory small-town gossip about her grandparents (grandpa didn't "mysteriously vanish," he ran away with his mistress! and he was a mean drunk! and grandma spent time in the hospital after a nervous breakdown!) while also desperate to find out why the cellar is strictly off limits...and just who grandma argues with down there at night.

Despite the numerous suspects Funeral Home throws our way--is it any or all of the Chalmers? their simpleton handyman? a lingering guest?--you don't have to be a genius to figure out who's behind the scant murders in the film. Regardless, there's a lot of fun to be had in wondering what's up in the family basement, and even more fun when the (unsurprising) killer is revealed and has a nice, big flip-out.

I'd say that this movie wears its Psycho influences on its sleeve, but really that's underselling how much Bates DNA there is in the Chalmers family. Again, it's all so obvious that Funeral Home holds few surprises. But hey, it was 1980, man! Slashers were only on the cusp of solely treading down the Halloween path and Hitchcock was still highly influential in the burgeoning sub-genre.

Though Funeral Home never reaches out into the bonkers WTFery of Silent Scream (1979), there's a bit of a commonality between the two films, each with their weirdos and innocents together in a big, odd house o' secrets vibe. In fact, they'd make a delightful double feature, I'd dare say. 

As would China O'Brien and China O'Brien 2, starring Cynthia Rothrock.

But I'll be real for a moment: the best thing about Funeral Home--yes, even better than Lesleh Donaldson or William Fruet or any of it--is the cat, who, as the end credits inform us, is named "Mitten." Yes, while
"Mittens" seems more natural a name, it is, in fact, the singular "Mitten." What a maverick. An iconoclast!  Mitten delivers some of the best cat acting you could hope for, and she is so cute that I will never understand what Heather's problem with her is no matter how many times I see Funeral Home

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go write a spec script about Mitten and Cynthia Rothrock teaming up to fight for justice against all the mob bosses, drug dealers, murderers, and Heathers of the world.

Pretend that's Cynthia Rothrock holding Mitten