The Mortuary Collection (2019)
I am always delighted to see that a new horror anthology movie has arrived. It's something that has always entertained me from a young age. Often tales of the macabre work when kept simple, something that Edgar Allen Poe and H. P. Lovecraft both understood, and something that current horror master Stephen King does well. So well, in fact, that quite a few modern anthology films seem to concentrate on them to the exclusion of all others.
The Mortuary Collection, however, is purely an original work by writer and director Ryan Spindell, and at this point his only feature-length film. Thus, whatever credit or blame, it lies not with a myriad of directors trying to interpret theirs and others' visions, but instead rests with Spindell, who proves himself quite capable even if he is treading some well-worn ground.
The wraparound for The Mortuary Collection concerns an old funeral home owned and run by Montgomery Dark (Clancy Brown), who one day gets a visit from a woman named Sam (Caitlin Custer) who wants to apply for the open position of an assistant. Besides preparing the dead for their final journey, Dark is interested in their various stories, something that Sam finds amusing but not that interesting. When asked to tell a story, Dark relates a quick one about a petty thief named Katie (Eden Campbell) who is a bit too greedy and gets her comeuppance.
Sam's not impressed, but Dark endeavors to find something to amuse her. The next story is about Jake (Jacob Elordi), the head of a fraternity that uses modern political correctness as an attempt to sleep with as many women as possible - something he learns has consequences when he meets the mysterious Sandra (Ema Horvath). Then there is Wendell (Barak Hardley), who is given a way of freeing himself from the burden of his catatonic wife Carol (Sarah Hay) with predictably disastrous results. The last story, however, comes from Sam herself, who has something quite interesting to get off her chest.
One of the most interesting things about The Mortuary Collection is its setting. It is a place called Raven's Rest, and all the stories take place within the town, which appears to be possibly somewhere in New England, although it was largely filmed in Astoria, Oregon. There is a mix of '50s and '40s clothing and hair styles, with '50s and '60s technology, vehicles from about every era and late 2010s sensibilities. Since a number of small characters, such as Dr. Kubler (Mike C. Nelson) recur throughout the different stories, it makes the town feel isolated and out of time. It also makes a bit more sense once the wraparound story concludes.
As with most movies of this type the main problem is different stories having different quality. I believe Spindell got the order just right. The shortest story comes at the beginning, but I just wish there was a little more to it. Story two had more of a gross-out punchline, and was meant to be the humorous one, while the third was highly predictable, and the last the most involved. Surprisingly, the wraparound was almost as fully plotted as the last story, although it left me confused at what the ultimate goal of everything was since it seemed like it was providing the opposite of what was hinted at.
As for Spindell he is definitely a capable director, wisely using the scenery the best he can, although in some cases there was a little too much reliance on computer animation and green screens to create atmosphere. The budget shows in most of the tales being in closed settings, with little to no exterior work done throughout. While I didn't find every story as engaging as it could have been I do give him credit for at least creating something of interest, even if it doesn't completely satisfy.
The Mortuary Collection (2019)
Time: 108 minutes
Starring: Clancy Brown, Caitlin Custer, Eden Campbell, Jacob Elordi, Ema Horvath, Barak Hardley, Sarah Hay
Director: Ryan Spindell