THE FUNERAL, written and directed by Qiu Yujie, premiered at the 2019 Portland Horror Film Festival, a 4 day festival that celebrates independent and international horror films. This year, Heather Langenkamp (of A Nightmare On Elm Street fame) was on the panel of judges as a Bloody Jury member, cool!
THE FUNERAL is a Chinese horror-thriller about money, class, ghosts, and mothers — plus a spooky doll makes an appearance. A model, Zhong (Kunjue Li) first appears, posing for a commercial, looking super young with three other models, drinking soda.
During the photo shoot, the director bursts in and rips a ridiculous scarf wrapped around one of the models and screams: WHAT? Why not give her a pacifier?” Exactly what I was thinking, buddy. Why, indeed? Do the models need to act like children?
SERIOUSLY WHY? In American culture as well, there’s a trend to shoot women holding teddy bears in nighties with big bows in their hair — dressing them up as little girls. Why? It’s gross.
THE FUNERAL’s opening scene shows that youth is extremely valuable and that no matter what, you must cling to it; in horror films, this usually means that the young protagonist is going to suffer. And she’s going to suffer for the sin of being young.
Zhong is a nice girl and not fake nice either, she’s genuinely sweet. She learns that her Aunt has passed. Her Aunt was an independently wealthy woman who lived in a fabulous house on a grand estate. Zhong’s friend speculates that her Aunt may have left her an inheritance since her Aunt was childless. Zhong, who didn’t know her Aunt well, decides to attend the funeral out of pity and duty.
Zhong has a good heart: she is going to suffer for it. Good people always suffer for their generosity, I don’t know why. I didn’t make up the shitty rules of the universe. So, I was worried when Zhong heads to her Aunt’s house for the funeral. What will happen to her?
When she arrives, there’s a good looking man there, Li Baile, who is attending the funeral as well and a creepy butler who manages the estate. The butler seems chill but everyone knows you can’t trust a butler in a horror film. They will straight up murder your ass or sell you out to a serial killer or hire a clown to butcher you in the den during the murder party.
Li Baile takes a liking to Zhong and they hang out for a bit but Zhong is having nightmares about her dead mother, who killed herself in a bathtub, years ago. Zhong discovers BLOOD IN HER BATHTUB in the morning (similar to her mother’s suicide) and tells the butler who mansplains plumbing to Zhong and Li Baile. Zhong doesn’t believe him but she doesn’t leave the house even though she’s afraid.
Even if it’s a prank, it’s a creepy one. And her new friend Li Baile seems weird. Is he really Li Baile? Or someone else? There’s a real Rosemary’s Baby vibe in the air, and Zhong needs to get out, pronto. But being the socially-obedient girl that she is, she doesn’t leave.
But it turns out that her Aunt left her inheritance to Zhong, and they want Zhong to live in the house and run it, but Zhong knows it’s a trap. They lock her in a closet and a creepy ass doll appears out of nowhere to intimidate Zhong. Zhong’s afraid…that’s why she’s been chosen: she’s young and defenseless.
The end is left open to interpretation but it’s chilling to see how selfish people can be even family. And what people will do for eternal life. Many cultures fetishize youth which THE FUNERAL probes under the guise of supernatural elements. It suggests that an obsession with youth is unhealthy: we can’t stay young forever. And to obsess about eternal youth and immortality is annoying and possibly corrupting.
The director, Qiu Yujie, a graduate of Beijing Film Academy, wrote The Shadow Play as well. I can’t wait to see more of her work: she’s interested in the stories of women which lends itself well to the thriller and horror genre. For women, are quite familiar with horror, having grown up well steeped in it.
THE FUNERAL premiered at the Portland Horror Film Festival from June 5 to June 8th, 2019.