Imagine having your house haunted. Now, imagine having to learn to live with the fear of sharing your home with invasive spirits and having to change your habits due to their presence. Mauro Iván Ojeda brought this concept in his first written and directed feature film straight out of Argentina and into Fantasia Festival’s online edition for its world premiere.
Bernardo (Luis Machín) is the owner of a funeral home. Attached to it is his own, personal home where he lives with his wife, Estela (Celeste Gerez), and his teenage stepdaughter, Irina (Camila Vaccarini). There’s something off about where they live, as it seems that dad has brought some work home in a permanent way. You see, it seems as if their house is haunted by the ghosts of some of Bernardo’s “clients” (and others) who refuse to go away; having been nicknamed the “presences”. The family seems to have begrudgingly gotten used to some of them, despite the nuisance of being unable to use the bathroom during the night due to its paranormal activity, for example. They were told that the specters cannot harm them, but the fear of these ghastly visions is always present. However, one particular spirit is beginning to cross household boundaries that others never did and is becoming more and more threatening each night.
Writer/director Ojeda adds an interesting concept to the ghost story routine. An undertaker, attempting to cope with his life of being a stepfather to the rebellious teenage daughter of his spouse, also attempts to manage the loss of his father, in addition to adapting his life to the spirits who have overtaken his home. That’s a tall order of adjustments, all at the same time. Unfortunately, the scares aren’t all that numerous and Ojeda brings nothing new in terms of spirits and possessions.
The first half of “The Undertaker’s Home” is a slow burning (perhaps too slow?) narrative, riddled with a loud, eerie, and sometimes overbearing soundtrack. Things really start to pick up past the midway mark of the film as interesting plot revelations occur and poltergeist activity finally emerges more actively.
The small family is composed of three talented actors in Luis Machín, Celeste Gerez, and Camila Vaccarini. While all three manifest a great deal of fear in regards to the presences in their home, Machín also constantly gives off an aura of despair and exasperation, Gerez profusely sweats anxiety, while Vaccarini brings forth a sense of annoyance, rebellion and confusion amidst her coming of age.
The cast is definitely not the downside of this tale as much as all the potential left on the table. There surely were missed opportunities in terms of paranormal activity and fright throughout the movie. While the second half of Ojeda’s increases its hauntings and apparitions, it still has a typical cliché of the “ghost-communicator” who comes to aid the family and have everything go wrong, while still lacking on the visual horror that could have been.
“The Undertaker’s Home” is far from a train wreck of a film, as it still possesses an interestingly crafted plot with superb actors. Missed opportunities are its main flaw as you’ll definitely still be hungry for terror once the final credits fade into view. Mauro Iván Ojeda’s film merits a score of 6/10, nonetheless.
Article written by SIMON ROTHER