[FrightFest Review] 'The Mortuary Collection' is A Delightfully Gory Gathering of Deadly Horror Stories!
When attending different film festivals, an audience can expect to find some hidden gems which delight the attendees and even add a little bit to the genre. So, hooray for all the fests and festgoers, but some films need to be shared with a far larger audience and not be limited to the select few who can attend the scheduled events...
...Originally starting as a short called “The Babysitter Murders,” writer/director Ryan Spindell expanded on his story and now it’s all grown-up and in a feature length film called The Mortuary Collection. Most recently playing at the Glasgow Frightfest, this film stars a very creepy (and almost unrecognizable) Clancy Brown (Carnivale, Shawshank Redemption) as Montgomery Dark and a curious Caitlin Fisher (Extraction, Teen Wolf) as Sam. Assisting the cast in the storytelling, the artistic choices of the film create similar imagery as found in A Series of Unfortunate Events or Pushing Daisies, but with decidedly more gore. The two leads of the film guide the audience through the mysterious Mortuary and tell aesthetically pleasing stories all of which come together to make a very entertaining and gruesome horror anthology.
Welcome to Raven’s End! A small coastal town which holds all the necessary eerie qualities for a good story. Outside of the town stands an old Victorian home which houses the Mortuary. From the appearance of the building, you know all the children definitely would have invented ghost stories about it and passed them down from sibling to sibling. And perhaps some of these stories were not made up. Either way, the creepy “Help Wanted” sign hanging in the front just begs you to enter.
Inside, Montgomery Dark resides over the funeral of a small boy and the mortuary director explains how even though the child died young, his story lives on. While the speech holds significant sentiment, the delivery comes off as overbearing and unwelcomed by the guests. Apparently, the deep booming voice of Brown is not fitting for a funeral. Using “bone-dry” humor, Dark explains how part of his job entails “extracting the truth” from the corpses because each deceased tells a story. He archives the tales of their death and explains not only the manner in how they died, but also the why. After the mourners exit the building, the cocky and surprisingly comfortable Sam arrives for a job interview but demands information from “Monty” instead. She pressures her possible employer into reading a story of one of his “clients” and gives the caveat to make the tale “dark and twisted.” And so begins the first story. (I’ve created titles for the stories based on the dialogue between Dark and Sam).
“Don’t Stick Your Nose Where It Doesn’t Belong”
A 50s era woman attends a house party but robs many of the men in attendance and then hides from anyone who shows interest in her. The story takes place entirely within a bathroom, but the framing and colors of the small room draw you in as the space simultaneously appears small and endless. Lesson of the story: Don’t go looking thru people’s medicine cabinets.
“Better Safe Than Sorry”
Do not let the story book motif and picturesque settings lull you into assuming this film holds a PG-13 rating. The imagery of the film thus far might be a bit misleading for what you are about to experience because in this death story things are about to get sexy. And then gross. A college bro from the 60s sets his sights on hosting a party and encourages girls to attend by handing out condoms. Later we learn he is trying to escape the long-ago overweight nerd trapped inside of him. Does that mean deep down he cares? Nope. Just a deceptive horn-dog who pays a heavy price for lying to a girl.
"Till Death Do Us Part”
Taking place some time in the 70s, this death story looks at a bunny obsessed couple who consists of the overworked Wendell and his comatose wife. It seems shortly after their marriage the wife became sick and now requires non-stop care from her clumsy husband. To occupy his time (and sanity) Wendell produces well-crafted and meticulously plated foods before dumping his creations into the blender and feeding the liquefied contents to his wife. When the bills consume Wendell’s life, he decides perhaps a peaceful end to his spouse would make everything better. However, Wendell actually does suck at everything and nothing goes as planned. The intended anxiety of the story exists, but definitely becomes overshadowed by the awkwardness of Wendell. This doomed romance story is probably the most visually appealing of the collection and showcases some delightful gore as well.
“The Babysitter Murders”
Finally, the story which prompted the creation of the anthology! In the 80s a lone babysitter puts a small child to bed and then goes about her night with predictable build-ups. A news broadcast about an escaped mental patient, a storm which makes the lights flicker, and so many warnings about how dangerous it is to be a babysitter all assist in letting the viewer know, the babysitter is in for a bad night. The final story focuses more on action, as a lengthy fight scene moves from one room to the next, but each area of the house presents its own gory surprises. The kitchen holds a lot of fun utensils and contraptions for mutilation purposes. And in another room a rarely used weapon makes an appearance: the television!
The overall theme of the tales relies on how an evil deed deserves punishment, so the stories all follow a predictable but entertaining pattern. Also, some connections between the stories rewards the audiences and encourages multiple viewings as well. Delighting the senses, the film presents an interesting combination of special and practical effects as well as some gory and creative death scenes with a beautiful old-timey backdrop. Using a framed narrative for the plot creates an engaging flow to the film as each time we return to Dark and Sam we learn a little more about the job and the mortuary. All together Spindell creates a fun horror anthology with great stories and an entertaining through line lead by the unsurmountable Clancy Brown. Also, if you are like me and a massive Phantasm phan-girl, you will really enjoy the character of Montgomery Dark. Brown looks (and sounds) a lot like the Tall Man, which is fitting because he plays a funeral director.
By Amylou Ahava
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