Originally published on The Nerd Daily.
Writer/director Ryan Spindell’s feature-debut The Mortuary Collection puts new twists on familiar horror tropes, spinning together four phantasmagorical tales into a web of grim, twisted, and sometimes downright demented horror shorts.
The Mortuary Collection, starring Clancy Brown and Caitlin Custer, pulls the audience in through its eerie, cinematic opening sequence that harkens back to childhood spooks as a boy cycles around town to deliver local papers bearing headlines warning of gruesome murders. His last delivery is to Raven’s End Mortuary, currently hosting funeral services for another young boy.
The four stories included in the anthology are delivered within the context of a storytelling showcase delivered by mortician Montgomery Dark (Brown) as he tests out a would-be new assistant, Sam (Custer). These stories, which share a narrative thread of gruesome morality and indeed sometimes also symbols and characters, escalate as Dark leads Sam deeper into his mortuary.
Classic horror tropes undergo symbolic new imaginings in each of the anthology’s four instalments. First, vintage monster horror gets its due when a pocket-picking party thief tucks herself away in a bathroom to examine her spoils only to unearth an unexpected, tentacled terror in a locked medicine cabinet. Next up, putting a twist on college frat house slaughter films and including more than a little social commentary on contemporary sex and gender politics, a student seeking to seduce impressionable female freshman into becoming marks on his bedpost attracts the attention of a very special lady ultimately, er, delivering unintended—and rather gnarly—consequences. Things move from bizarre to grisly in the third story when a long-suffering husband turns to murder under the guise of compassion when he poisons his terminally-ill wife. (It does not end well.)
As Dark ends his third tale, Sam—who has remained impressively nonplussed and even glib during Dark’s yarn—ups the stakes with a tale of her own. Sam’s contribution spins the familiar babysitter slasher storyline on its head, providing the much-needed lynchpin to the collection and turning the anthology toward its climax. Without giving away the ending, it’s fair to say the sins Sam’s past transgressions will, quite literally, eat her alive.
While there is an undeniable feeling of comfortable horror-film nostalgia in the four stories of the collection, The Mortuary Collection as a whole does suffer a bit from overdone and sometimes indulgent explorations in the needlessly morbid. What does shine in the anthology, however, is its absolutely stunning visual aesthetic, unapologetic storylines, and delightfully macabre portrayals that should please most horror fans.
Lindy Miller Ryan is an author, editor, and spooky things enthusiast who occasionally makes crafty things and bakes.