Sam (Caitlin Fisher) is a potential new recruit at a mortuary presided over by Montgomery “Monty” Dark (a delightful Clancy Brown in some very fine cadaver style makeup). During the interview at Sam’s goading Monty weaves her gruesome tales of those who have passed through the mortuary and the strange nature of their deaths -a pickpocket who gets a brutal comeuppance, a student who practices unsafe sex, a married couple contemplating the true meaning of “till death do us part” and a terrifying battle between an escaped mental patient and a brave babysitter…
I do love a good horror anthology. Horror is just so perfectly suited to this format. A good horror short can be more effective and terrifying than a full-length feature and the joy of an anthology is that if one segment turns out to be weaker, well you don’t have long to wait before the next. The Mortuary Collection from writer/director Ryan Spindell is a very rare beast indeed -a horror anthology which doesn’t feature a single dud. Each of the stories told is a beautifully crafted morality tale – a modern-day set of Grimms Fairytales. The Mortuary Collection is a riff on vintage horror comics like EC Comics and anthology shows like Creepshow. The stories have this timeless quality to them. They could be set now, could be set in the 1950’s -vintage dresses abound and there is this sort of honey-toned look to the film that evokes a feeling of nostalgia.
All of the segments are solid. The first (unlike most anthologies they don’t seem to be named) is a short, snappy visual delight as a pickpocket, Emma (Christine Kilmer) learns very quickly that curiosity has its price.
The second piece with a college student Jake (Jacob Elori) “stealthing” and removing his condom before having sex with the seemingly bookish Sandra (Ema Horvath) is both a savagely dark comedy & a brutal takedown of toxic masculinity. Jake is a rapist (yes fellas stealthing is rape) and so our sympathies are very limited indeed but Elori finds the man behind the grotesquerie and so by the end, we “almost” have sympathy with his plight. The piece is delightfully clever in its treatment of gender roles. It also features one of the most wince-inducing explosions of gore I’ve ever seen.
The third section is my favourite of the film. Darkly comic and deeply melancholic it focuses on Wendell (Barak Hardley) and Carol Owens (Sarah Hay) a happily married couple. When Carol is diagnosed with a terminal illness Wendell must cope with his new reality of being stuck in a tiny apartment with his desperately ill, mute wife. As the prospect of potentially being stuck there for years providing 24/7 care to someone who won’t die Wendell decides to hasten Carol’s end. There follows a pitch black comedy of errors where everything that can go wrong does. The piece culminates in a visually astonishing, gothic sequence in an elevator where the spirit of Carol comes to remind Wendell that he agreed “till death do us part”. It’s the best scene in the film with killer practical effects and atmospheric lighting combining to make a jaw dropping scene that is both grotesque and beautiful.
The final piece (which plays into the framing device) is a very fun riff on 1980’s slasher movies as Sam is interrupted (whilst watching a slasher on TV titled The Babysitter Murders) by an unwelcome visitor. As a storm rages and the news warns of a dangerous escaped convict can Sam survive? Visually arresting with some great fight sequences and gruesome gore the piece has quite the sting in its tale.
The Mortuary Collection is a delightfully gruesome collection of macabre tales that hammers home the point that actions have consequences.