On the cusp of retirement, an eccentric mortician recounts several of the strangest stories he’s encountered in his long career, but things take a turn for the phantasmagorical when he learns that the final story… is his own.
The anthology format has always been a favorite of mine in the horror genre. Like many people who grew up in the 90’s I lived for Tales From The Crypt and Are You Afraid of the Dark? I am also a big fan of films like Creepshow, Tales From The Darkside and Trick R Treat. The Mortuary Collection directed by Ryan Spindell is a great tribute to anthology horror films and short story format. That’s the great thing about an anthology, it’s a collection of great stories.
The film is set in a small town and follows Sam, played by Caitlin Custer. Sam is inquiring about a job at the local mortuary run by the mysterious and eccentric mortician Montgomery Dark, played brilliantly by veteran character actor Clancy Brown. Dark gives Sam a tour of the mortuary and along the way recounts tales of fright and delight involving the deaths of some the inhabitants of the mortuary. Sam begins to realize that not everything in the mortuary is as it seems.
The direction in this movie is solid well executed. Director Ryan Spindell has a passion for the anthology format and it shows in the final product. At the QnA, after the film, he mentioned that this is his passion project, that he has been trying to make for years. There is great attention to detail in the different stories of the film. They all seem to be connected and all have a sense of being lost in time. In one story there will be 1950’s style furniture but also still feels like it could be set in the modern-day. The mortuary itself, which is the center for all the stories feels like it is a victorian setting stuck in a modern town, looking down upon the inhabitants of the town and judging them. The entire cast was stellar in their performances. Clancy Brown steals every second he is on camera, bringing a great duality to Montgomery Dark. He is mischievous, but also serious. Sinister but also coy and playful, you never quite know if you can trust him or not. Truly great performance can’t say that enough. Caitlin Custer gives a great performance as Sam the young girl applying to work at the mortuary. She has great comedic timing and plays off of Clancy Brown very effectively. She also very subtly plays her in a way that her character seems to be hiding something, like the mortuary there is more to her than what is seen.
The stories themselves have a nice balance in tone, equally emphasizing the scares and the laughs. One story will focus more on the horror while another might be more of a comedy, but all feature a sense of morality. Each story is trying to get a point across and illustrate that no act of evil goes unpunished. In this sense it has a Tales From The Crypt feel to it, in which bad people meet justice.
This won’t work for everyone but it certainly does for me. I can’t go into much detail without spoiling the film, but the stories don’t vary in quality, as is the case which some modern anthology films. I believe this is because one writer and director is in charge of the stories, and those stories share a common thread that weaves them together. When a story needs to go for a scare, it goes for a scare. When a laugh is needed we get it. It’s always hard to maintain that balance between comedy and horror and this film achieves it. It feels like a bit of Tales From The Crypt with a dash of Creepshow into the mix.
This was my favorite film at Fantastic Fest for the reasons I stated above. It’s a fast-paced carefully planned out, loving tribute to a format we don’t see enough of. Sometimes that is what makes a good movie, passionate people making them. Four out of five stars, no word yet on when it will be released but when it is please check it out.