THE MORTUARY COLLECTION (October 22nd)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
Anthology horrors. They're not my favourite type of horror film. They often feel like a series of unconnected short films stitched together and I usually find the pacing and ability to properly get invested in what is going on somewhat stunted. There of course have been some very decent anthologies over the years. Dr Terror's House of Horrors (1965) starring Donald Sutherland and Christopher Lee was one of the early solid ones. Tales from the Crypt (1972) were wonderfully creepy and moralistic and then we have perhaps the pinnacle of the sub-genre – 1982's Creepshow which saw the dream team of Stephen King and George Romero team up. Since the turn of the century we've had Trick'r Treat (2007, VHS (2012) and Southbound (2015) which have all been perfectly fine. In the last few years we've not really had much to sing about though so when a little film called The Mortuary Collection appeared on Shudder last week, my interest piqued a little. Early reviews were very positive so I decided to check it out...
Mortician Montgomery Dark lives and works in an old creepy Victorian funeral home in the perpetually foggy seaside town of Raven's End. He's a bit of an eccentric and morbid figure and the townsfolk obviously think he's a bit sinister. Anyway, after a rather weird service for a child that has been killed, Montgomery finds a young women lingering around the casket. The woman, Sam, tells him that she saw the 'Help Wanted' sign outside and is there to offer her time. Montgomery is a little suspicious of her motives but she seems genuinely curious about his position and what the job entails. He shows her the library, which is basically an archive of not just how people have died, but why. Sam asks him to regale her with a few stories from the books. Something 'dark and twisted'. We cut between anthology stories from the archives and the present day in the funeral home between the individual stories.
The Mortuary Collection is a really enjoyable blend of macabre stories, lush visuals and some top notch gross out effects. In the early stages, it feels like it could exist in the same world as Goosebumps or The House With A Clock in the Walls. It feels vibrant and teen friendly and yet gothic and creepy at the same time. However, this is not for kids and there's some pretty brutal stuff in here. The stories themselves are all quite different but all retain the same vein of dark, twisted humour. Like Tales from the Crypt, they are all moralistic tales too. They're like horrific parables and fables. We have one about an attractive pickpocket at a party who encounters something weird in the bathroom (ok that sounds a bit shifty). Then there's one about a promiscuous freshman who gets more than he bargained for. The third is about a husband whose new bride becomes extremely ill and he begins to ponder if he should force an exit from their marriage. And lastly, we have one about a breakout at the local asylum. They're all a lot of fun and like all good anthologies, the stories are sort of connected somehow and although a couple of them perhaps go on a little too long (the film clocks in at an hour and fifty minutes), it never really feels like a drag at any point.
You sort of know that you're not going to just be sitting through four stories being relayed from one character to another. Ultimately the final act has to offer something a little different and we do indeed get a really unexpected and really quite grim twist towards the end. Clancy Brown is brilliant as the ghoulish mortician and he has most of the best lines in the film. Although the film is unashamedly gruesome in places and each short story is punctuated with a rather startling climax, it's definitely got its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, which makes all the gore and absurdity that much more palatable – and satisfying. There's something about the world that these stories are set in that's really appealing too. It's difficult to really place what era they are set in and therefore feel kind of timeless as a result. Incredibly, this is writer/Director Ryan Spindell's debut feature too.
If you haven't seen it yet, then make sure you do before the end of the month. It's a perfect way to spend a couple of hours as the nights draw in and we hurtle closer to Halloween.