The Undertaker’s Home (La Funeraria, 2020)
Director (and writer): Mauro Ivan Ojeda
Cast: Luis Machin, Celeste Gerez, Camila Vaccarini, Susana Varela, Huga Arana
Set in a funeral home where the undertaker Bernardo (Luis Machin), his wife Estrella (Celeste Gerez) and stepdaughter Irina (Camila Vaccarini) live, The Undertaker’s Home sets up in a world where they reside with the presence of the spirits that have been gone. They live with rules set to not cross certain lines and not go to their haunted bathroom and spirits communicating in whatever means with them. What starts out as just rules to follow that create inconvenience eventually becomes much more serious as they realize they aren’t just living with spirits but there is a demon invading their home that is making the situation more dire.
The Undertaker’s Home has a few good points. For one, it keeps a simple equation of using the one setting. Luckily, the setting has fairly extended grounds with their main living quarters and the room, the funeral hall in the next building and the outside grounds which is where they have a port-a-potty. Right off the bat, the movie’s opening scene sets the tone right from the get-go with the music being a big part of the eerie element to build the atmosphere and the camera navigating throughout the setting to place where everyone is and the little hints of things to be unveiled as the story develops.
Second, the premise is rather unique. Having spirits among the living is something that most horror movies have as a background but to have people living consciously with spirits making the first half of the film fairly strong as its unique to see them encounter these and then also see how they have learned to ignore and cope with it. We never see the spirits or demon fully revealed, which is something that leaves a lot to the imagination and it helps that the cinematography focuses on the characters reactions whether than show their point of view which leaves some space for the viewer’s imagination to stew.
Third, the characters are rather good as well. There is sufficient amount of conflict and through their arguments and conversations, you can find the family dynamic. It drops a few hints as to a lot of their family issues and drama. Each of these characters, especially that of Bernardo is rather odd. They have their own little secrets. Bernardo’s character is one odd character and becomes more and more unsettling to watch as the story unravels.
The deal with The Undertaker’s Home is that, a lot of its merit comes from the beginning part and the whole setup of the film in the first part. There are some tense moments in the final act but the story seems to lose a little bit of its direction. As it brings in the demon plot, things start taking a more normal horror film path. At the same time, something to note about the film overall is that the first act sets out straight away that most of the fear and unsettled atmosphere is created by its looming, crescendo and strong music direction that blends in some sound effects to make it especially eerie and easy to get under the audience’s skin. However, once the music starts becoming a familiar element of the movie, the second half becomes less effective as the music blends more and the uneasiness is no longer there but replaced by the actual intensity created by the scene as the demon shifts into the plot. Question is, without the background music, it feels like the tropes are more obvious and the movie is not quite as scary and its intended to be. In that sense, it loses a little bit of the unique elements that was created in the first half and loses some steam.
The Undertaker’s Home has a lot of elements done right. In fact, the way it creates the soundtrack and the sound effects to create the building uneasy and unsettling atmosphere is really well done. Except, when I step back to think about it, the story itself lacks a little bit of spark. Perhaps it has to do with the final act being heavily focused on the stepdaughter and while she makes a great scream queen, her role at the end is more “scream-queen”-esque and not so much depth. There is one transition twist that I do think is a little disjointed even if the meaning of it is vaguely apparent as a little detail mentioned from the beginning part. In a nutshell, it feels like there are a lot of unique ideas here but some of them didn’t get the time to be more fleshed out.
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