Horror anthologies are ever-popular and evergreen, giving audiences a chilling collection of tales that allow for fully realized frights without the stories overstaying their welcome. The Mortuary Collection is like a five-course meal, each dish with its own flavour and purpose. Writer/director Ryan Spindell — in his feature film debut, no less — has whipped up an impressive, cohesive storytelling spectacle that will surely satisfy.
At Raven’s End Mortuary, Montgomery Dark (a heavily made-up Clancy Brown) presides over the funeral rites of corpses whose histories he keeps recorded in the countless books on his shelves. One day, a young woman named Sam (Caitlin Fisher) answers his Help Wanted sign, and her curiosity about death and his past “clients” leads him to relate a few of the most bizarre tales.
The stories span over four decades — from the 50s to the 80s — and the production design for each is absolutely perfect. The sets? Perfect. The costumes? Perfect. The cinematography, the lighting, the props? All perfect. It’s an undeniably beautiful film that I really want to just curl up and live inside (the house! I die).
The aesthetic is everything you want it to be, and then a little bit more. Right from the opening moments of the film, you’re drawn in by the detailed setting and enchanting score by Mondo Boys (She Dies Tomorrow, Phoenix Forgotten). There’s a fairytale quality to it all that you immediately want to be a part of.
The first story told (in which a savvy pickpocket’s curiosity is ultimately her undoing, set in the 50s) has a gorgeous symmetry in every shot that just makes your brain happy. The second segment (wherein a recklessly promiscuous frat boy learns about safe sex — the 60s) has fantastic comedic timing and brilliant execution of close-up shots. The third (a husband caring for his catatonic wife becomes desperate in the 70s) plays with emotion and tone, right up to its visually stunning conclusion. The fourth tale (a babysitter comes to blows with an escaped asylum patient — naturally, the 80s) was first a short film from which The Mortuary Collection blossomed, delivering all the tropes you know and love before shaking them up for one final showdown.
Each segment plays differently, but the benefit of having them all behind Spindell’s capable helm is that — despite the variations in tone and even decade — they all form one cohesive film. It would be incredibly easy for this type of feature to become a mish-mash of ideas, but Spindell masterfully weaves everything together so that it doesn’t feel like a spattering of parts.
It’s a wonderful collection of cautionary tales that deserves a place on the mantle of great horror anthologies. The Mortuary Collection has the vibe of Creepshow with the polished quality of Trick ‘R Treat. You can see a deep love for EC Horror comics and anthology films of the 70s and 80s running through its veins. Above all, it’s just plain whimsical fun with tales that will tickle your horror-loving brain.
As Montgomery Dark states in the film, it’s not the length of the tale, it’s the quality of the content. If you by any means enjoy horror anthologies — hell, even if you don’t — The Mortuary Collection should find its way onto your watchlist. It’s bloody, it’s beautiful, and it’s got charming character coming out of every creepy crevice.