Writer and Director: Mauro Iván Ojeda
In this present time the world probably does not need a film called The Funeral Home, but nothing about this daft, low budget horror from Argentina is likely, apart from the title, to offend anyone. Here, in a film that appears to take itself very seriously, evil lurks in the toilet.
The opening shots, complete with stock scary music, reveal the garden of the house that is attached to the funeral home. A few chickens peck among the flowers, some of which are in raised beds made from unneeded caskets, but what catches the eye, even though the camera only gives us a glimpse, is a blue Portaloo, the kind that middle-class people have in their front gardens when the builders are in. God forbid that the builders should use the inside bathroom with their dirty boots and toilet habits.
But the small family that run the funeral home don’t have builders; instead they have ghosts. These ‘presences’ are to be expected to some extent, the family is told, because of the funeral home, but Ramona, the local exorcist, says that they shouldn’t use the inside toilet at night so as not to antagonise the ghosts further. Conveniently, someone has written on the toilet door in big letters ‘Do Not Use At Night’.
The presences also write messages, usually on the condensation on windows, to Bernardo the funeral home director .At night when his wife is upstairs, knocked out on sleeping pills, and his stepdaughter listening to her music through headphones, he brings gifts to spirits that write him. In the daytime wife Estela can smell ghostly aftershave, while Irina, her daughter, is waiting for the ghost of her real father, killed in a motorbike accident, to appear.
Despite this premise, some of the early scenes are intriguing with their undercurrents of domestic and sexual abuse, and also helped by Luis Machin’s performance as Bernardo. With a deathly pallor and full of sweaty, nervous tics, Machin adds more horror than the scaly presences that haunt the house. Celeste Gerez makes Estela into a dreary character, and it’s shame that her devious storyline isn’t fleshed out more. Camila Vaccarini does well with the grumpy teenage Irina, but the role is one we’ve seen before.
Writer-director Mauro Iván Ojeda does well to relate the claustrophobia of the funeral home to the audience, and towards the end shows a surreal streak that you wish had come earlier. It’s certainly an unforgettable ending, but it’s difficult to know whether to respond with laughter or derision. The Funeral Home is Ojeda’s debut feature film, and surely this balance between the supernatural and the surreal, the domestic and the fantastic can be perfected in future work. But let’s hope the Portaloo doesn’t make a reappearance.
Released on 2 February 2021