Teenager Irina (Camila Vaccarini) lives in a funeral home with her mother Estela (Celeste Gerez) and her step-father Bernardo (Luís Machin). With tension building between her and Estela, and Irina’s inability to hide her disdain for Bernardo, the family begins to fracture. Things worsen when strange noises and terrifying sights scare Irina witless and she decides to go and stay with her grandmother. Estela and Bernardo, who have their own issues, call on someone to help them rid the house of its demons but they have no idea just how much danger they’re in.
‘The Funeral Home’ is the directorial debut of Mauro Iván Ojeda, who also wrote the screenplay, and it takes the haunted house idea and gives it a twist. Rather than discovering that the house is haunted, the family knows this from the start and live by strict rules to keep themselves safe. While Estela tries to ignore the problems within the house, Irina pines for her late father and constantly clashes with Bernardo who wants to discipline her.
Bernardo has a secret of his own, taking off to a restricted part of the house to communicate with what he believes to be the spirit of his late wife. Whether or not he knows more than he’s letting on, I won’t reveal but suffice to say there’s a solid set-up that leaves plenty of room for surprises.
Ojeda expertly builds the tension over the course of the film, utilising long eerie shots of empty parts of the house and using sound to dramatic effect. The film’s score helps too, often given your heart reason to skip a beat every now and again. Ojeda goes with the less is more approach, and you get scared more by what you don’t see than what you do. One scene in the latter half of the film sees Irina closed in a bedroom listening to the horrific sounds of what’s transpiring on the other side of the door. It’s creepy and incredibly effective.
The film builds to a very intense but satisfying climax that goes places you don’t expect and is actually far more brutal than you’ll predict. There’s a moment of levity before reality hits and it’s a sucker punch of an ending that I found quite emotional. It also took me a minute or two to catch my breath and calm my poor heart down, after it thudded in my chest for nigh on 20 minutes.
Camila Vaccarini is the star of this film. She’s so convincing when she’s playing terrified that it sets off your alarm bells too. Her ability to express the horror and anguish Irina feels is jaw-dropping and you get swept up by her. Celeste Gerez is very good too as Estela, a woman who has tried to make good decisions in life but always seems to end up on the wrong side of bad luck. The relationship she has with Irina is complicated but it’s a very believable one.
‘The Funeral Home’ is an incredibly effective supernatural horror that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s proper edge-of-the-seat horror, leaving you waiting for the next shock and scare, and it never disappoints. The concept may be familiar to hardened horror fans but for me it was original enough to hook me in until the very end. Ojeda shows a lot of promise and I can’t wait to see what he has coming up next.
Cast: Luís Machin, Celeste Gerez, Camila Vaccarini, Susana Varela Director: Mauro Iván Ojeda Writer: Mauro Iván Ojeda Certificate: 18 Duration: 86 mins Released by: Del Toro Films