‘Funeral Home’ Is Completely Vacant [Blu-ray Review]

Funeral Home

Slasher films were so ubiquitous in the ‘80s that horror fans are still to this day discovering titles that flew under the radar for years. One thing everyone can agree on is that a horror film should (at least attempt to) be scary, and that slasher films should have people getting slashed. Funeral Home (1980), also released as Cries in the Night (the title card used here) doesn’t do the former and hardly does the latter.

A sufficient on-screen kill doesn’t happen until over an hour in, and prior to that, Funeral Home is nothing more than a lot of talking and questioning and speculating. It feels more like a feature made for Canadian broadcast television than something looking to compete with similar films during the heyday of slashers. Scream Factory deserves credit for breathing new life into this old corpse, since it never had a decent disc release before this. But, the film is mostly a bore.

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Heather (Lesleh Donaldson) visits her grandmother, Maude (Kay Hawtrey), who lives in a small town. There she and her husband James (Jack Van Evera) operated a funeral home but ever since James’ disappearance months ago, Maude has decided change is needed and now runs the business as a bed & breakfast. She employs a local dimwit, Billy (Stephen E. Miller), as a handyman. Customer service isn’t exactly Maude’s strong suit, as her strict God-fearing ways cause her to pass judgment on the few guests her place attracts. Maude seems like a sweet old lady but her demeanor quickly shifts when she’s challenged or offended. Heather doesn’t have much to do in these parts and she decides to explore a bit—until ol’ granny sternly reminds her to “never go into the cellar”. Gee, I wonder why?

Mark Irwin’s moody cinematography is the best (and maybe only) reason to watch Funeral Home. He’s best known for shooting most of David Cronenberg’s early works, and later he lensed some of Wes Craven’s titles including Scream (1996). The biggest problem is director William Fruet, working from a script by Ida Nelson, never builds enough mystery to sustain this bloodless endeavor. A couple of people are known to be missing early on and the characters just keep talking about that, over and over. Anyone who has seen a handful of slashers should be able to put together the pieces rather easily, which then makes the task of getting to the Big Reveal laborious.

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Kills are decently staged and shot but hardly enough to salvage the script. This is the kind of film you’d see as a kid and remember it being scary, only to revisit it many years later and realize it was better left as a memory. It isn’t outright awful but there’s so much left to be desired it’s hard to recommend as a first-time viewing for seasoned horror fans.

Scream Factory provides no provenance for the 1.85:1 1080p transfer, so this is likely an older scan prepared by another company. The image is often soft and gauze-y in daylight but nighttime scenes offer some improved lighting choices and stylized angles. Mark Irwin was still in his early days of being a cinematographer—this was his fifth feature. So he was likely still honing the techniques that would later make him famous. The print used is in good shape, and free from debris and damage. Colors mainly hew toward earthy tones, lots of green and brown. Everything looks a touch faded, though how much of this was due to production limitations is a guess.

Those limitations are more evident in the English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track, which often sounds compressed and has a frequent hiss/hum heard beneath the dialogue. The mix is generally poor and flat, with muddy qualities. Jerry Fielding provides the score and this, too, is one of the film’s standouts. I’m not always a big fan of his work (his score for The Wild Bunch (1969) lacks the power it needed) but this is a solid effort that occasionally elevates the film. It was also his final feature film score. Subtitles are included in English.

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There are three audio tracks available to watch during the film: an audio commentary with Paul Corupe of Canuxploitation.com and film historian Jason Pichonsky; isolated score selections and audio interview with music historian Douglas Fake; and audio interviews with actor Lesleh Donaldson, first assistant director Ray Sager, and production assistant Shelley Allen.

“Secrets & Shadows – Interview with Director of Photography Mark Irwin” (HD, 15:46), a lively discussion about Irwin’s early days, the challenges on set, and his thoughts on the work all these years later.

“Dead & Breakfast – Interview with art director Susan Longmire and set assistant Elinor Galbraith” (HD, 13:39), it’s always cool to hear from atypical production members and these two women have some solid anecdotes from the set.

“Family Owned & Operated – Interview with Brian Allen, President of Premier Drive-In Theaters” (HD, 12:34), the son of one of the film’s producers talks about his family history in the business and memories of being on set.

“Original Filming Location Footage” (HD, 6:34), tours the main house grounds with narration by Michael Felsher.

A theatrical trailer (SD, 1:50), video trailer (SD, 1:44), two TV spots (SD, 1:05), two radio spots (2:18), and a still gallery (HD, 4:53) are also available.  

Special Features:

  • NEW Audio Commentary With Film Historians Jason Pichonsky And Paul Corupe
  • NEW Isolated Score Selections & Audio Interview With Music Historian Douglass Fake
  • NEW Audio Interviews With Actor Lesleh Donaldson, First Assistant Director Ray Sager, And Production Assistant Shelley Allen
  • NEW “Secrets & Shadows” – Interview With Director Of Photography Mark Irwin
  • NEW “Dead & Breakfast” Interviews With Art Director Susan Longmire And Set Assistant Elinor Galbraith
  • NEW “Family Owned & Operated” Interview With Brian Allen, President Of Premier Drive-In Theatres
  • NEW Original Filming Location Footage
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Video Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Radio Spots
  • Still Gallery
  • Optional English subtitles for the main feature
  • Funeral Home
  • Special Features


Slasher film completists will likely want this one for their collections but the film offers little in terms of strong story or memorable kills. It’s a subpar Canadian curiosity with a few notable names attached, though Scream Factory deserves kudos for giving it a lavish home video release.



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