The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Shudder] - THE MORTUARY COLLECTION | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Shudder] - THE MORTUARY COLLECTION

the mortuary collection review
A teenage girl coerces her town's mortician into telling grisly stories.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Ryan Spindell

Starring: Clancy Brown, Caitlin Custer, Barak Hardley, Christine Kilmer, Jacob Elordi

the mortuary collection poster

The Mortuary Collection is that rare horror anthology in which the wraparound segment is more engaging than any of the featured stories. That's down to the presence of actor Clancy Brown, who lends the wraparound a level of star power and presence absent from the tales spun by his character, Montgomery Dark, the mortician of Raven's End, a small weather beaten town that appears to be stuck in a hipster's vision of the 1950s, all Westinghouse tube TVs and rockabilly on the radio.

Following the funeral of a small boy, Dark is approached by Sam (Caitlin Custer), a smartass teen who wants to apply for the advertised position of his assistant. Suspiciously fascinated by his profession, Sam coaxes Dark into relating stories of how some of his "clients" ended up on his slabs, and thus the tales are unspooled.

the mortuary collection review

First up is a brief single location story of a female thief (Christine Kilmer) who retires to a bathroom to empty the wallets she's just pickpocketed at a high society party. Something is waiting for her behind the medicine cabinet however.

Next is the highlight of The Mortuary Collection's stories, which takes us to Raven's End's local college. There we meet Jake (Jacob Elordi), the fraternity's house stud, who has claimed the virginity of 66 female freshman students by spinning them a load of guff about his feminist sympathies. The 67th notch on his bedpost is the mysterious Sandra (Ema Horvath), who turns the tables on Jake when he refuses to wear protection. This one has an effective sense of place, a timely bit of social commentary and a memorably gruesome twist. It would work perfectly as an episode of Tales from the Crypt, a show to which The Mortuary Collection owes quite a stylistic debt (did I hear its theme tune referenced in Mondo Boys' score here?).

the mortuary collection review

The last of Dark's tales introduces us to Wendell (Barak Hardley), a devoted husband who has committed himself to looking after his wife, Carol (Sarah Hay), since she entered a catatonic state on their wedding day. The toll of caring for Carol finally catches up with Wendell, who follows the advice of his doctor (Mike C. Nelson, who plays the character across three segments) in slipping untraceable but deadly pills into her gruel. Wendell's plan to mercy kill his wife doesn't go off so smoothly, and he finds himself attempting to dispose of a bloodied corpse. This one fails to live up to the darkly comic potential of its premise. There should be more uncomfortable laughs from Wendell's haphazard attempts to remove his wife's bloodied corpse from their apartment building without getting rumbled by his neighbours, but the initial tone of the short is too sober for the gags to ultimately land as easily as intended.

After Dark tells his three tales, it's the turn of Sam, who it turns out has a story involving herself. I won't get into details as the segment is played as a twist, but the final story initially sets itself up as a homage to '80s slashers, and I was disappointed when this turned out to be a fake-out, instead evolving into a rather generic battle between a babysitter and her potential killer. If you've seen director Ryan Spindell's 2015 short The Babysitter Murders, this will be familiar to you.

the mortuary collection review

Given the brevity of the first tale and how the final segment ties into the wraparound, The Mortuary Collection really only offers two substantial standalone stories. The mercy killing segment suffers from serious pacing issues and could really have been told in half the time, allowing for another story to make anthology devotees feel like they're getting their money's worth. At close to two hours, The Mortuary Collection is guilty of dragging in places, and only its college set story uses its running time efficiently.

The Mortuary Collection has the feel of a pilot for a '90s cable show that failed be picked up by a network. If that were really the case it might have value as a curiosity piece for portmanteau fans. But as a standalone feature it plays too much like an origin story to satisfy as a complete movie in its own right. That said, Brown is such a compelling presence as Dark - a sort of affable cousin to Angus Scrimm's Phantasm 'Tall Man' - that a TV series could well be spun off from The Mortuary Collection, which may be more pleasing in 30 minute episodes than the rambling feature it presently exists as.

The Mortuary Collection is on Shudder from October 15th.

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