Friday, December 7, 2012

31 Performances Ripe for Rediscovery (25) Lesleh Donaldson in FUNERAL HOME (WITH A SPECIAL GUEST CONTRIBUTION FROM LESLEH DONALDSON)

I remember very clearly the first time I saw the striking Canadian born Lesleh Donaldson in a film.  I was in my mid-teens and the film was the classic 1981 slasher Happy Birthday to Me and Lesleh's brief, but very memorable appearance, as Bernadette O'Hara immediately caught my eye.  A bit later, via another battered but treasured old VHS tape I caught up with Lesleh's most famous role, that of Christie Burns in the 1983 chiller Curtains.  Anyone who has seen Curtains will certainly recall Lesleh's role in that film as she is featured in, simply put, one of the most memorable and terrifying sequences in all of modern horror (a scene which did for outdoor ice skating what Jaws did for ocean swimming).

Lesleh's name will be eternally tied to the early eighties slasher craze that meant so much to so many film fans from my generation, even though she only appeared in a few films from the genre.  Beautiful and talented, with an especially warm quality that comes through in even the smallest role, Lesleh graced a number of films and television shows throughout the seventies but never got the break she should have which is one reason that Funeral Home is so special.

The 1980 William Fruet directed Funeral Home gave Lesleh one of the much deserved leading roles that alluded her most of her career and she really makes the most of it.  Barely sixteen when she shot the film, Lesleh is truly splendid in this chilling little-seen film and she totally deserved the Genie nomination she received for her performance.  Funeral Home isn't a perfect film but Lesleh's performance in it is and it serves as a sharp reminder that many more leading roles should have come her way.

Flash forward from that initial viewing of Happy Birthday to Me all the years ago to just a couple of years back when I became friends with Lesleh over at Facebook.  While making contact with your idols often proves disastrous Lesleh and I sparked up a nice friendship and share similiar tastes in music, film, art and politics.  In the first of a few surprises this month, Lesleh has kindly agreed to share a few thoughts on Funeral Home for my readers here at Moon in the Gutter and I am oh so excited to be able to offer this contribution from her.  Thanks so much to Lesleh for stopping by and sharing these thoughts and I hope everyone will track down a copy of Funeral Home!

- Lesleh Donaldson on FUNERAL HOME written for Moon in the Gutter-

"I remember when I was filming FUNERAL HOME aka: CRIES IN THE NIGHT people would ask me what movie I was doing and most of them would perk up and say to me " Oh my God what is Jamie Lee Curtis like?" I of course would smile and say "you must mean PROM NIGHT" then they would look at me embarrassed and say 'oh yeah sorry'. Well at the time back then I desperately wanted to be in PROM NIGHT and MY BLOODY VALENTINE and all the other cool films that had a group of teenagers trapped in some godforsaken situation with an axe wielding maniac on the loose. I actually did get to go on to do a film like that shortly after FUNERAL HOME, but what makes FUNERAL HOME special to me, and I think makes it stand out from the rest of those films at that time, is an atmospheric quality it had and of course the William Fruet touch (anyone who has seen WEDDING IN WHITE will know what I'm talking about). 
Bill Fruet had an ability to capture a part of rural, isolated living that was a big part of Canadian cinema back in those days and not only did he capture the loneliness and isolation of these people, whether it was in a horror movie or just a gut wrenching tale of humanity, but he captured it so that it seems time capsuled. FUNERAL HOME has a lot of faults as a film but to me it is a part of the Canadian cinema that has long gone. I'm proud to have been a part of it and it will always hold a special place in my heart!"

1 comment:

Amanda By Night said...

Love this! I'm a big fan of Lesleh, Funeral Home and the totally underrated William Fruet. He made so many great little films.

I am FB friends with Lesleh too and she's so great with fans. She is still lovely too.