Just a Simple Bed and Breakfast – Funeral Home (1980)

Sometimes the everyday can be just as scary as anything in a horror movie and putting the two together is a magic that cannot be ignored. There are some films do it with kids because children are the very picture of evil in the world and others do it with old ladies, as oftentimes they can be very frightening. Funeral Home is a perfect example of this as it takes a harmless old lady set in her ways and one who has to change in order to survive. To do this she gets a little help from her granddaughter and they transform her old home into a boarding house, one where strangers can come and go should they need a place to stay the night and all is right in the world. Maybe Mrs. Chalmers is not all that bad.

As it truly stands, there is nothing wrong with the elderly as they are usually the kindest and sweetest of people, but film would have the audience believe otherwise with truly brutal examples like Flowers in the Attic, Rosemary’s Baby and Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice? to name a few. As for Funeral Home, Maude Chalmers as portrayed by Kay Hawtrey seems to be like the nice old grandma who is perhaps a little old fashioned when it comes to certain things, one who disapproves because things are not quite like they were when she was young, but one who is willing to try and at least understand for the sake of her granddaughter. Of course, the movie wants to throw the viewer off the scent and there are times when it seems that something is wrong with Maude, something just a little off and when she continues to go on her mysterious trips to the basement, it is then when the picture starts to crack and whatever it is that might be wrong, starts to shine through.

There are little special effects to be found other than a little red food colouring for the blood that eventually shows up. Most of the murders that take place are not as colourful as some films, though there is one particularly graphic scene with a shovel. Most of the horror is not represented visually, but atmospherically as director William Fruet and cinematographer Mark Irwin paint an exceptional portrait using the house to their advantage. Though it is a large and almost unassuming house, they make it seem both friendly and inviting while at times claustrophobic and maze-like. When Heather as played by Lesleh Donaldson finally decides to wander down and see what it is that grandma keeps in the basement, her race back to her bedroom when she thinks she is about to get caught takes an eternity as she navigates the old building. It is packed with tension and not even thirty seconds later after jumping in bed, grandma is standing over her, with what can only be the most foul of intentions.  Definitely one of the better scenes in the movie and one that begs you to keep watching until the very end.

Altogether though, Funeral Home is a made-for-television film made for the big screen with the same production values and that same melodrama one would find on ABC every Sunday night. Surprisingly, as subdued as it is, that little bit of tension, horror and drama that is present makes for a captivating recipe, as that aforementioned network also discovered over the years. The film is good; it simply is not frightening in any way though it might be a little disconcerting at times. Not a bad watch should one find it channel-surfing or in a discount bin somewhere.

3 out of 5

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