A horror anthology set in a mortuary, that’s not exactly a new idea. Tales from the Hood, Necrologies and Body Bags come to mind right away. Now The Mortuary Collection gives us undertaker Montgomery Dark (Clancy Brown, Little Evil, Highlander) of the Raven’s End Mortuary relating stories to Sam (Caitlin Custer), a young woman applying for a job as his assistant.
The first tale, Medicine Cabinet, is really just a vignette about a would-be thief (Christine Kilmer) who finds something they weren’t looking for. It’s darkly funny and ends on an appropriately cheeky shot.
Unprotected, the second tale is a bit darker but still has its funny moments. Jake (Jacob Elordi, The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee) is your typical fraternity alpha male. Or in less fancy terms, a womanizing douchebag. When he refuses to use a condom with Sandra (Ema Horvath, The Gallows Act II, Like.Share.Follow.) he ends up with something worse than VD.
This segment lays on the body horror and the blood along with a big dose of EC Comics style morality. Even more humorous are the critics who complained about it being “too woke”, considering how far back variations on this theme go.
The third one, Till Death, isn’t funny at all. Wendall (Barak Hardley, Bounty Killer, Spell) loves his wife Carol (Sarah Hay, Braid, Black Swan). The problem is, Carol is in a comatose state and caring for her all these years has pushed him to the edge of his ability to cope, emotionally and financially. But when he tries to end her suffering, things go horribly wrong.
This is a powerful segment, both frightening and touching, perhaps because it’s so grounded in reality. Hardley’s great performance as the tormented Wendall doesn’t hurt either.
“The world is not made of atoms, it is made of stories.”Montgomery Dark
Sam tells the fourth story. The Babysitter Murders may be familiar to some viewers, and not just because it uses the original title of Carpenter’s Halloween. It’s writer/director Ryan Spindell’s well-received 2015 short. It fits perfectly into The Mortuary Collection as the babysitter trying not to be murdered is Sam herself.
Sam is babysitting on Halloween when the movie she’s watching, also called The Babysitter Murders, is interrupted by a news bulletin. A child killer (Ben Hethcoat, Show Yourself) has escaped from the local asylum. You can guess who is about to get a visitor.
Set in a world with 50s style radios and TVs as well as answering machines and where news anchors smoke while on air this is a blast. It’s high energy and caught me completely off guard at the end.
Then we’re back to the mortuary for a wrap up that ties into what we just saw in a most fitting way. It’s also a bit more involved than most. Be sure to stick around until The Mortuary Collection’scredits roll.
With only four stories all filmed by the same director, The Mortuary Collection has a feel like the old British anthologies I grew up on. The original Tales from the Crypt, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, Asylum and all the rest. That’s something I miss in this era of mix and match collections where you hope the various filmmakers’ work all gels.
Brown is excellent as the aptly named Mr. Dark. He has a sinister charm about him and could almost pass for Phantasm’s Tall Man after he stopped caring about his weight. Custer’s Sam makes a great foil for him and the back and forth between them during the interludes between the stories is much better than most wraparound stories.
The Mortuary Collection has plenty of gore and creatures on display here too. And going with the old school vibe most of them are done with practical effects. There is some CGI, but at least it’s kept to a minimum.
Currently streaming on Shudder, The Mortuary Collection is one of the better anthology films out there. Since the stories here span the 1950s to the 1980s I hope I hope there are plans for a sequel to bring them up to the present. You can check out the film’s website for more.