31 Days of Hallowe’en 2021, Day 7: La Funeraria [2020]

source: idk, it just said ‘google’

Tonight’s movie was La Funeraria (The Funeral Home), a tale from Argentina, which is famous for putting out brilliant, unrivalled horror content (like Atterados/Terrified). But it’s only been a couple of hours since finishing it and I’d almost completely forgotten about it. That’s not a good sign.

Here’s why:

The plot, firstly, is thus: a young woman lives with her teenage daughter and second husband in his family’s funeral home (which is also their home). Ghosts pester them nightly, and the only way they’ve managed to avert them so far is by not using the toilet at night (this is never explained). Suddenly, though, the daughter spots a ghost in her room (the reason for this is never explained, either) and slow machinations towards a potential story ensue.

At just over 80 minutes, there isn’t time for this film to meander, yet off it shuffles into two or three different storyline threads, none of which come close to any kind of real resolution. Halfway through the film’s runtime I found myself pausing to look up the plot in case I missed something, but really nothing had happened beyond a lot of atmoshphere build-up; no catalyst had occurred to drive the plot forward. We were just being shown any old day in this family’s life, in this funeral home they live in, with no significant reason as to why these days in particular are being shown to us.

The story padfoots through its own mire of supernatural and slasher clichés, such as ghosts with knives, a far too over-confident psychic/exorcist insisting that she’ll keep everyone safe, one person almost immediately exiting a safety circle of salt despite being explicitly told not to.

There are some odd narrative choices: ghosts only ever seem to attack when any of the women are peeing (which happens far too often to be a coincidence, but I’ve no idea what this is trying to say); the stepfather, previously shown to be at worst indifferent and at best ‘henpecked’, has a conversation with an unseen ghost that, from the dialogue used, implies it’s a young girl, but the things he says are…icky (“I love when you call me that”) and in the very next scene we see him from the back, standing up, naked. It’s difficult not to infer something disgusting here but, either way, this isn’t explained. In the penultimate scene, all of the violence takes place from the other side of a closed door, from the daughter’s POV. Why? This would make sense if the film was entirely through her lens, but it’s not.

And, in the final scene, there is a ballet dance that is meant to be poignant but has earned zero emotional return because, aside from a single scene in which ballet is discussed, there’s not one shred of ballet motif or even a flashback of any bit of dance, and the dance itself in said final scene is so awful that it’s insulting that the filmmakers would have us believe that this character is an award-winning ballerina. THIS was a more professional-looking performance.

There are bits of good: The photography at times is striking, and the atmosphere it builds up in every nightly spooky scene shows promise. But then tentative under-editing and overlong takes reduce the tension to damp squibs, every single time. The music is overbearing and seems at odds with the muted, almost phoned-in performances. There is is one single shot involving eyes that might haunt me for days, but it belongs in a giallo movie. It’s adrift; an idea from a better film.

This feels like an unfinished short, a muddled pitch for a few different ideas, but none of them come together to make anything memorable.

Score: 🎃🎃

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