Sleek Horror Anthology The Mortuary Collection (2020) Incites Halloween Adjacent Holiday Cheer
Title: The Mortuary Collection
First Wide Release: October 15, 2020 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Ryan Spindell
Writer: Ryan Spindell
Runtime: 108 Minutes
Starring: Clancy Brown, Caitlin Custer, Jacob Elordi
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
A lost but spirited young woman, Sam (Caitlin Custer), sneaks into a mortuary after a funeral to apply for a job. She is greeted by a whimsical mortician (Clancy Brown) who begins telling her stories about the people who have been sent into his care. Each tale teaches its own lesson in morality and gradually escalates in tension and stakes while the two get to know each other better.
Director Ryan Spindell’s feature-length directorial debut, The Mortuary Collection, is a charming and wickedly entertaining spookfest that is guaranteed to get you into the Halloween spirit.
The strength behind The Mortuary Collection lies in the way it tells its stories, not the stories themselves. Originality is largely thrown out of the window with most of the tales here, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It actually works with the plot and the film has some pretty meta moments regarding the quality of the stories. That being said, each segment works to a degree. I personally am tired of anthologies using segments like the third short in their films (where the plot boils down to a person attempting to hide or dispose of a body) but the second and fourth easily make up for it.
Sam and Mr. Dark are delightfully charismatic characters brought to life by talented actors. Both Custer and Brown bring energy and stage presence to their respective roles and propel the story along making the wraparound segment feel as lively as the tales they tell. While both give great performances, the true star is Brown’s voice. It has a certain early 2000s’ movie trailer meets campfire ghost story quality to it, which makes him perfect for the role of the mortician. Furthermore, Brown’s cadence and inflection nails the creepy paternalistic elder role in a spectacular way. It should be noted that Jacob Elordi and Ema Horvath give extremely solid performances in the second segment, which is easily the strongest of the mortician’s stories.
The Mortuary Collection is a beautifully shot and engaging film. I’m a huge fan of stylish and sweeping cinematography, especially the kind that combines throwbacks to 50s’, 60s’, 70s’ and 80s’ aesthetics with a slick, gothic veneer. It’s evident that every detail is languished over and it makes the overall product appear higher produced than it is budget may indicate. My favorite scene in the entire film is an all-night sex session that is shot from one location in a bedroom and framed by an alarm clock as two midnight lovers work until the morning. If I wasn’t gushing enough, I cannot forget the score. A fantastic jolt of energy, the music behind The Mortuary Collection transports the viewer to the dark fantasy world of Raven’s End.
My biggest issue with this film lies in the execution of some of its more technical aspects. Largely this is due to the effects. The practical effects look best here. Sometimes cgi is cheaper or quicker, which can also effectively mean cheaper too, but I found myself turned off at times. Ultimately, I would have ranked this a bit higher at the end had the effects been less egregious. I do want to point out some of the good effects here, so I am not merely dogpiling on an indie film. Some high points include burn effects, a scene involving a meat grinder, and a very particular instance of body horror.
Regardless, this is all very forgivable, to me, given the film’s obvious budgetary constraints. With a little extra cash, I can see these issues dissipating, which is why I think Spindell and his team deserve praise for making it look so professional with everything against them. I’d love to see a sequel with a little more wiggle room to go all out in some of the stories.
Spindell had a daunting task with creating The Mortuary Collection as his first big film but he absolutely hits it out of the park. This film is Halloween without even invoking the holiday or making any implicit hints. The spirit bleeds through the setting, the music, the acting, everything really. Both sleek and polished, The Mortuary Collection benefits from its great story structure. Spindell raises the stakes with each story, gradually getting more detailed and wider in scope. I can’t emphasize it enough that Spindell created an exceptional horror film that clearly shows the love for the genre.
Each tale within The Mortuary Tales attempts to teach a lesson to the viewers. The lessons are never groundbreaking but are still on point in certain ways. To me, this makes sense. Each story is set in an earlier time period from the 50s’ to the 80s’. It is understandable that some of the lessons may feel dated. The lessons are still timeless in a certain way and can easily be applied to current social issues. The most poignant involve sexism and gender roles.
As a horror fan, Halloween is my Christmas, and nothing transports me back to my days as a pre-teen than a film that invokes the spirit of my favorite holiday. The Mortuary Collection nails the mood, atmosphere, and aesthetic of the season. While I certainly beat up on the third story of this film, there’s always one outlier, in either direction, within every anthology film, and it doesn’t change how giddy this movie made me feel. I want it to be known that I not only can envision a sequel in its future, I absolutely demand one! The Mortuary Collection is for anyone who loves films that capture the magic of October and the true wonder of the genre.
Overall Score? 7.5/10