This is a repost of our review from Fantasia Festival 2020. The Mortuary Collection will be available on Shudder October 14, 2020.
Although the anthology film has been a mainstay in the horror genre for decades, it’s been a few years since one truly captured the vibe of those classics like Creepshow, Tales From the Crypt or, one of my personal favorites, Tales From the Hood. That’s all changed however with Ryan Spindell’s The Mortuary Collection, a pitch-perfect anthology that has cult classic written all over it.
There are four stories contained within a wraparound that defies the norm and manages to be every bit as compelling as the segments themselves, featuring Clancy Brown in perhaps one of his best roles yet as a creepy mortician telling stories of death to a prospective new employee. Taking place in the same small town but spanning several decades, each segment is a bite-sized morality tale, chock full of little Easter eggs tying everything together in small but significant ways.
There are some entries that outweigh the others, like all anthologies, but unlike many other movies of this ilk, even the lesser stories contain great qualities and aren’t outright dog shit like you’ll see in some other titles I won’t name.
The first segment is the shortest, but it introduces the viewer to the style and tone of the overall package as a great primer for what’s to come. A crafty pickpocket gets more than what she bargained for while getting a bit too greedy at a party.
Next up is the second strongest of the set, a college-set role reversal involving a frat bro having some gruesome body horror inflicted upon him. This segment highlights the excellent effects work prevalent throughout the entire film, which relies heavily on practical effects over CG, something that is always worth praise.
The third segment involves a husband nearing the end of his rope after struggling to care for his comatose wife. It’s a story that ends up in a morally gray area, a fact that’s pointed out in the wraparound portion afterward, a very nice touch that shows the attention to detail and thoughtfulness put into the script.
For the final story, Spindell pulls out the big guns, but this also introduces a potential problem with the film. While The Babysitter Murders sort of dwarfs the other segments, it also happened to be a short film Spindell directed back in 2015. For those who saw it already, it might come as a disappointment. How he ties this into the wraparound is clever, however, and it’s definitely worth a re-watch so I don’t think too many points can be docked for its inclusion.
The subtle amount of humor injected into the script adds to the Creepshow vibe, striking a great balance between laughs and grotesque horror. Between Clancy Brown’s excellent Crypt Keeper-style narration — delivering personality and comedy while remaining undeniably creepy — and the excellent Amblin-inspired score by Mondo Boys, The Mortuary Collection is an immensely fun throwback that marks a horror highlight for the year.