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“The Undertaker’s Home” is a stunning debut that will not only haunt you emotionally but will also get deep under your skin to scare the life out of you.

Be prepared to look over your shoulder, and make sure you’re not alone in a darkened room.

Director Mauro Iván Ojeda brings his spellbinding debut feature film, The Undertaker’s House, to Fantasia Film Festival for its world premiere — a terrifying, memorable ghost story that deserves an audience.

In the film, the living and the dead live in an uneasy compromise in a funeral home and residence. The ghosts who reside in the buildings have their own rooms that are taped off or chained closed. A red line is painted outside on the lawn to show where the living may not cross. The bathroom is closed to the living, so the family must use buckets in their bedrooms at night or go outside to a port-o-potty.

Inside the home, the family of three also live in an uneasy compromise.

Bernardo (Luís Machín) runs the family funeral business, which had been run by his recently deceased father. In the residence, he lives with his wife Estella (Celeste Gerez) and his stepdaughter Irina (Camila Vaccarini). Irina is unhappy living there and misses her dead father. Estella puts up with the funeral home because Bernardo is nice to her and respects her and has the stability her ex-husband didn’t have. Estella also endured abuse during the first marriage.

The state of the residence reflects the state of the marriage and the relationship with the ghosts.

Irina yearns to see her dad just one more time, while Bernardo is seeking something from the ghosts that he isn’t getting from Estella or Irina. Irina tolerates the situation but uses drugs at night to help her sleep because the spectral intrusions keep her up all night long if she doesn’t turn to sleeping pills.

Soon it becomes clear that there is something else in the residence that means the family harm. As the supernatural aspects of the movie escalate, so do the attacks against the family, starting with Bernardo. The burdens of the rising activity, Bernardo’s refusal to accept that anything is wrong, and Irina’s desire to get away continue to strain the family.

Further, ghosts, in paranormal form, are not the only hauntings.

As The Undertaker’s Home shows, the ghosts of our past continue to haunt us and can be worse than the dead rattling around our homes.

Decisions reverberate through this family and, as Bernardo learns, there are things said and done that cannot be taken back no matter how hard one tries.

The Undertaker’s Home may seem familiar to many horror fans, and there are some similarities to the 2010 hit film, Insidious. But first-time director Mauro Iván Ojeda takes a deeper look at what holds a family together and causes them to unravel. Ojeda is more interested in the folly of the living, rather than the intentions of the dead.

The creeping, almost unbearable tension is aided by extraordinary set design, hauntingly beautiful visuals, and one of the most effective and unsettling scores I’ve heard in some time. I sincerely hope this chilling and nearly flawlessly executed film finds a receptive audience among North American horror fans.

Turn on the lights and pull the bed covers up to your chin once the last image of The Undertaker’s Home has faded from the screen, because you don’t know what’s lurking just down the hall or next to your bed.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies)

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