PCA Film Fest: All My Friends Are Funeral Singers (2010)

PCA reviews films that you’ve never seen…but should!

Tim Rutili’s directorial debut All My Friends are Funeral Singers is not your typical ghost story.  It is not a horror film.  The ghosts, for the most part, are quite friendly.  However, it is not a quirky comedy.  Nothing particularly funny really happens in the film.  All My Friends are Funeral Singers sort of lays in between the two genres.  The film is quirky, and at times the drama becomes intense, but for the most part the many ghosts in the film, are fairly docile and the film itself fairly tame. 

Angela Bettis, who has appeared in such horror/thrillers as May, Bless the Child and the television remake of Carrie, stars as Zel, a third generation psychic that lives in a large old house inherited by her deceased grandmother which happens to be haunted by a dozen different ghosts.  The only one who can see the different spirits inhabiting the home, Zel has grown up with the ghostly menagerie and instead of fearing them, she thinks of them as the only family she has ever known, and a happy familiarity between the dead and the living exist within the house as the ghosts help Zel with her work as a fortune teller.  However, when a bright light appears within the garden, the ghosts find that they can not leave and the once happy home turns into a place of discontent and mistrust.  As the ghosts revolt, Zel must find the true secret about why they are there, and about the secrets and betrayals of the past.

Angela Bettis and the ghosts that haunt her in "All My Friends Are Funeral Singers"

While All My Friends are Funeral Singers may not be a thriller or a horror film, Tim Rutili does succeed in creating an atmospheric and eerie little film.  The films’ ghosts, all dressed in white, quietly drift in and out of the film’s frames,  In a sense, Rutili possibly creates a more realistic sense of ghostly appreciations and the experience of haunting.  Instead of frightening things happening, Rutili’s ghosts are trapped souls living in sort of a limbo state between life and death.  Their presence alone creates the sort of strange tension that is felt while walking through haunted buildings.

One of the most haunting, and most important, aspects of the films is the original soundtrack written and performed on screen by Tim Rutili’s band Califone.  A musician by trade, Rutili has composed soundtracks for a number of independent films.  Thus, it is no wonder that he would make the music such an important factor of his first film.  Casting Califone as ghosts (Rutili himself can be seen as a ghostly guitarist), their music, which mainly consists of traditional bluegrass mixed with thumps, chimes and bells, flows throughout the entire film, adding to the uneasy and haunting atmosphere.  However, as the ghosts become unruly and restless in the second half of the film, the music begins to intensify, which is used as a device to show the increased tension within the house.  The music is, without a doubt, the most memorable part of the movie.

Director Tim Rutili (in cap) and his band Califone play a ghostly band while providing the haunting soundtrack for the film

Only two real problems hold All My Friends are Funeral Singers back from being a true independent classic.  The first is that Rutili doesn’t take the film as far as he could.  Within the film there are a series of short vignettes in which various ghosts are interviewed, and you get to learn about their lives, and more importantly, their deaths.  There is the vaudeville entertainer, the bride and groom, a precaher, the band and so on.  However, the interviews seem to really go nowhere, and unfortunately not all of the ghosts are spoken to so you really don’t get a sense who most of them are.  The film could have truly been further enhanced by more of these vignettes, and more background information being given to some more of the ghosts.  Some of the ghosts have such unique looks about them that I found myself wishing for more information on them

The other disappointing feature is the final scene in the film.  What seemed to look like a powerful ending goes a half a minute too long, leading to a final scene where I found myself scratching my head in confusion.  Look.  I am not a stupid film viewer and I can be very shrewd when it comes to the world of cinema but even I didn’t quite understand what Zel is doing in the final scene, or what her final action is representing.  If there is one reason I’d like any of you to seek out this film is to get to the end of it and write to me to tell me what the heck happened.  It seems that Rutili was shooting for a twist ending, but instead of succeeding he just confused the audience.  Sometimes some films just don’t need a twist ending, or an extra scene.  The seconds leading up to the final scene are haunting and provide an excellent end to the film in itself.  Rutili’s biggest failure is not ending the film then.

Yet, despite its flaws, All My Friends are Funeral Singers is an interesting take on the ghost story genre.  It is haunting, beautiful, eerie and claustrophobic without being terrifying or filled with horror imagery.  In a sense, it is the closest thing to a true haunting ever to be captured in a film. 

For more information on All My Friends are Funeral Singers, visit the official web-site at http://funeralsingersfilm.com/.  Visit IndiePix Films to order your own copy or instantly stream All My Friends are Funeral Singers, as well as an entire world of other independent and international films to instantly stream or purchase for your collection.

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  1. tina’s avatar

    my dear Sam,
    im glad im not the only one lol
    i am also not a stupid film viewer but that ending DID leave me perplexed, which led me to go online for some sort of clarification (which i have not yet found) also i just watched the film so i have yet to mull it over. if i come up with anything i’ll be sure to let you know :-)

  2. Sam Tweedle’s avatar

    My dear Tina,

    Thank God I’m not alone. Good luck finding the answers. Let me know if you come up with anything.

    Sam Tweedle


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