Review by Sean Boelman
The best horror anthologies are not those that try their hardest to be as wild and out there as possible — they are the ones that recall the days of classic horror with concepts that don’t have quite enough substance for a feature but are still spooky enough to be worth the time. Ryan Spindell’s enormously fun The Mortuary Collection fits that bill perfectly.
The film is framed as a series of stories being told by a mortician to a new employee about the bizarre deaths he has come across. As is the case with most anthology movies, there’s an “unexpected” twist and the framing device turns into a segment of its own. And in that regard, it does fall a bit short because there are more questions than answers to be had.
Not unexpectedly, the four tales work to varying degrees of success, and the first (and shortest) is likely the most polished. Following a pickpocket that gets her comeuppance in an unexpected way, this is the most simple of the segments, but the lean narrative and suspenseful build up lend themselves to what is perhaps the best scare that the movie has to offer.
The second story, a parable about safe sex, is both the most entertaining and authentic offering of the film. The foundations of the horror genre are as a way to scare people out of committing acts deemed immoral by society. Relatively self-contained, this tongue-in-cheek horror comedy is a ton of fun to watch.
Perhaps the least effective of the stories comes third, as it stretches on for too long and can’t decide on a particular style. Starting out as a psychological thriller and morphing into something altogether less satisfying, this story of a husband struggling with his catatonic wife isn’t particularly scary, but it does feature the gnarliest images in the movie.
Still, Spindell is able to bring it home nicely with a finale that is an entertaining riff on genre tropes. Turning the babysitter cliche on its head, this is both the scariest and most compelling of Spindell’s creations. It ultimately feels a bit rushed, but at over an hour and forty-five minutes in length, Spindell would have had to cut down one of the other bits to lengthen this one.
Holding the whole thing together is a devilishly good performance from Clancy Brown as the storytelling mortician. In rather heavy prosthetics that make him hard to recognize at first, his distinctive voice is conducive to a role that, in the classics, could have very well been filled by the great Vincent Price.
Apart from one portion that falls a bit flat, The Mortuary Collection is a really solid anthology horror flick. Fans of short-form spooky content certainly won’t want to miss this one, as it offers some fun, old-school thrills.
The Mortuary Collection screens on demand (geoblocked to Canada) as a part of the virtual edition of the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival, which runs August 20-September 2.