The Mortuary Collection
Clancy Brown, Caitlin Custer, Barak Hardley, Christine Kilmer, Ema Horvath, Sarah Hey, Jacob Elordi
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…rides a fine line between the macabre and the humorous…deserves a spin on anyone’s Halloween playlist.
Horror anthologies can be a lot like the end result of a night’s trick or treating; a collection of sweet goodies that you probably shouldn’t consume in one go, because you won’t sleep but you’re pretty much going to anyway. Sure, one segment might not tick all your boxes, but there’s the promise of another one just around the corner.
There have been some absolute corkers over the decades, including Asylum, The House That Dripped Blood, Creepshow and for the more modern palate, VHS 2 with its brilliant death cult segment by Gareth Evans (The Raid). There’s also been some less than reputable ones that cash in on quantity over quality, such as ABCs of Death and the absolute nonsense of 60 Seconds to Die. Thankfully, The Mortuary Collection can certainly hold its own against its contemporaries.
Written and directed by Ryan Spindell, and marking his feature length debut, The Mortuary Collection sees Clancy Brown (Shawshank Redemption) as the brilliantly monikered Montgomery Dark. Dark, seemingly held together by cobwebs and dust, singlehandedly runs a funeral parlour in a small town and is actively looking for someone to help him in his duties. Along comes Sam (Caitlin Fisher), a twenty something college kid who doesn’t seem too uncomfortable around dead bodies.
Dark decides to test the steel of his potential assistant by recounting the gruesome endings of some of the clientele. As our host for the evening, Brown appears to be living his best life as the mischievous mortician, whilst Fisher listens incredulously to his seemingly tall tales. This sets up the framing device for Spindell to fire out four short stories, including his previous short The Babysitter Murders.
Set against a backdrop of early sixties American nostalgia, we become witness to haunted medicine cabinets, escaped asylum inmates, and pregnant misogynists. Spindell rides a fine line between the macabre and the humorous, which is shown to its full effect in the film’s third tale, where a man makes the decision to euthanize his very ill wife. Ultimately a sad tale about how hard it is to let go, Spindell seems to relish dishing out uneasy laughs.
It’s always a welcome surprise to come across an anthology where every story is as strong as the last and so it is with The Mortuary Collection. Eyes are gorged, genitals explode and human flesh is oven baked, but the film is never nihilistic or nasty. It puts a bony arm around us and encourages us to enjoy the ride. It’s a genuine delight to watch. This deserves a spin on anyone’s Halloween playlist.