Going to the cemetery at night is quite scary, but what happens if your home is actually in the cemetery? The Funeral Home tells the story of people who are forced to live in such a situation. It builds upon the idea that living next to the dead is not so difficult, but as they must, events take an unexpected and violent turn.
Writer and director Mauro Iván Ojeda’s feature-length debut tells the story of a family whose funeral services business is situated next to their house. Bernardo (Luis Machín), the man of the house, is responsible for running the business while Estela (Celeste Gerez) and her daughter Irina (Celeste Gerez) take care of the housework. Being this close to a place that houses the dead, of course, their home is visited by spirits every day.
In a creative twist, this is where The Funeral Home differs a little compared to most supernatural horror films. That is because Bernardo’s family is living almost peacefully with the ghosts that roam their house at night. On the one hand, this simple decision makes it easier for the filmmaker to address the elephant in the room and skip the denial phase of the characters we usually see in most tales of this sort.
“When the family finally discovers a demon hiding among the ghosts, they try to cast him out.”
When the family finally discovers a demon hiding among the ghosts, they try to cast him out. Instead of fighting the monster directly, they have to fight an old lady possessed by the creature. This old lady is neither scary nor strong enough to cope with the viewer’s expectations. And before the climax happens, this malevolent specter turns up the threat level more than what they’re accustomed to. This is the other hand: the justifications for continuing to stay in the house fall apart within any bit of thought applied.
Estela was married to an abusive man, Irina’s father, who died in an accident. That’s why she is not going to leave this haunted house. This may sound like a good alibi to justify her decision, but the more the story goes on and reveals all the difficulties she’s faced, the more the viewer resents her decision. Although Estela explains to Irina that they have nowhere else to go, the fact that she is mentally exhausted and takes sleeping pills just to have a night’s rest shows her discontent. Yet, she does nothing to get out of this painful cycle. This
One thing the film manages to pull off brilliantly is building suspense. Mauro Iván Ojeda uses pretty simple yet effective techniques such as blurry shapes in the darkness to portray the ghosts. Since The Funeral Home is a low-budget independent film, avoiding clear shots of the phantoms is a clever idea. It both reduces the need for potentially poor special effects while still engaging a curious audience. Yet, it does rob the impact of a true reveal of the demon, which could have helped sell what exactly is at stake.
The Funeral Home is just like the family it portrays: they are stuck with their shortcomings and try to make the best of what they have. It is a well-made film. The story’s initial idea deserves some credit, yet the poor writing and the unsatisfying ending make the end product only a slightly above mediocre experience.