Picks and Pans Review: Funeral Home

updated 03/28/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/28/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

Director William Fruet's film has nothing in common with the guts-and-gore festivals that most Hollywood chillers lapse into these days. But then this isn't a Hollywood product. It was shot in Toronto. Though Ida Nelson's screenplay borrows liberally from Psycho, the film has a natural look and refreshingly underplayed performances that make it unique. A sweet-faced teenager (Lesleh Donaldson) comes to help her warmhearted, religious grandmother (Kay Hawtrey) manage the funeral home turned tourist hotel she has run since her husband vanished. The creepy, shadowy aura of the place doesn't bode well for the venture, nor do the menacing presence of a retarded grounds-keeper, the whispers emerging from the cellar, and the inexplicable disappearance of several guests. The girl finally turns to her clean-scrubbed boyfriend (Dean Garbett) for assistance. Overused gimmicks lurk everywhere—black cat, creaking floorboards, innocents poking into murky places rather than staying in the sunlight where they belong. But Donaldson and Garbett are miles from the screaming Barbie and Ken dolls which are common to this genre. The supporting performances are excellent, especially those of Alfred Humphreys as Garbett's eager-beaver policeman brother, Barry (The Winds of War) Morse, about the only familiar face around, as one of the more normal guests; and Harvey Atkin and Peggy Mahon as loud-mouthed tourists who deserve everything that's coming to them. The violence is mostly suggested—no eyeball-popping or innards-spewing. Fruet, whose biggest previous project was 1972's Wedding in White, knows that the secret of horror is in the buildup, not the tear-apart. (R)

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