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Film Review: “The Mortuary Collection” Reestablishes the Horror Anthology Archetype with a Fun and Creepy Tone

Written by: Adam Vaughn | October 14th, 2020

Film poster: “The Mortuary Collection”

The Mortuary Collection (Ryan Spindell, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.

While it should be noted that the horror anthology subgenre seems to make an appearance once a year around Halloween time, The Mortuary Collection hits the screen with all the nostalgia and thrill of the classic anthology pieces (immediately I am reminded of Tales from the Crypt, Creepshow, Tales from the Darkside, etc.). The film features a stylistic presentation of creepy tales, and while the overall story doesn’t take us anywhere new or unpredictable, The Mortuary Collection revamps a seemingly lost, expressionistic and satirical version of horror filmmaking that has been out of fashion for a while.

The Mortuary Collection tells the story of an old mortician, at the end of life, named Montgomery Dark (Clancy Brown, Supercon), who is visited by a young Ms. Sam (Caitlin Custer) who immediately takes an interest in working with the macabre morbidness of a funeral home. Curious to know some of the creepiest stories the mortuary has to offer, Sam lets Montgomery Dark lead her on a supernatural journey through some of the most horrifying tales behind some of the dead who come across the mortician’s table.

Clancy Brown in THE MORTUARY COLLECTION ©Trapdoor Pictures

The film’s two main characters/narrators are not only the driving force of the narrative, but also played to perfection by Brown and Custer, who create a compelling dynamic as elderly creepshow host and young, aspiring creepster. Brown is almost unrecognizable thanks to the makeup department’s efforts, and his performance alone diversifies his acting skills apart from his typical old-tough-guy archetype. Custer plays far more than just a young victim, and certainly helps to build on the tension between Dark and Sam. While Brown and Custer’s characters never lead us to beyond the predictable ending (even the supposed plot twist doesn’t come as a shock), both actors are widely interesting and entertaining.

The Mortuary Collection naturally contains several short-form stories told by Dark, and the shorts fluctuate between surprising and obvious. With any anthology, some short stories will hit home more than others, and this collection of tales bears no different result. Some of the shorts contain very thematic (sometimes ironic) and chilling twists and turns, while others fall on the formulaic side. As a collective group, the short stories complement each other with characters overlapping in various shorts and varying villainous entities. The real struggle is less in how they differentiate among themselves as short stories, and more in how they differ from what has been done in previous horror films.

Caitlin Custer in THE MORTUARY COLLECTION ©Trapdoor Pictures

Overall, The Mortuary Collection is without that one piece of thematic content that diversifies or branches out from horror anthology films from the past, following similar aesthetics and scripts, and hugging previous anthologies too close to be a brand new take on the subgenre. Still, the film still holds tremendous entertainment value, creates a solid tone and morbid, creepy mood throughout, and even hints at a very Tim Burton-style of fantastic design. The audience may very well find that they’ve been here before, but The Mortuary Collection earns its place as this year’s memorable horror anthology.

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Adam Vaughn is a graduate of the Film & Moving Image program at Stevenson University, with a focus in Cinematography and Production. He also has a minor in Theater and Media Performance. Adam works as a freelance photographer and videographer, focusing his craft on creating compelling photographic and cinematic imagery. Adam is excited to join the Film Festival Today team and explore the world of cinema and visual arts.

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