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John’s Horror Corner: The Mortuary Collection (2019), a top-notch horror anthology.

January 24, 2021

MY CALL: Excellent anthology horror! And not because I happen to love anthologies. That is not something I can say about most anthologies due to their inconsistency. This anthology has one writer/director with a well-executed vision. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Mortuary Collection: Creepshow (1982), Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990) and Trick ‘r Treat (2007).

MORE HORROR ANTHOLOGIES: Dead of Night (1945), Black Sabbath (1963), Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Vault of Horror (1973), The Uncanny (1977), Screams of a Winter Night (1979), Creepshow (1982), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye (1985), Deadtime Stories (1986), Creepshow 2 (1987), From a Whisper to a Scream (1987; aka The Offspring), After Midnight (1989), Tales from the Crypt Season 1 (1989), Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), Two Evil Eyes (1990), Grimm Prairie Tales (1990), The Willies (1990), Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Campfire Tales (1997), Dark Tales of Japan (2004), 3 Extremes (2004), Creepshow 3 (2006), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), Chillerama (2011), Little Deaths (2011), V/H/S (2012), The Theater Bizarre (2012), The ABCs of Death (2013), V/H/S 2 (2013), All Hallows’ Eve (2013), The Profane Exhibit (2013), The ABCs of Death 2 (2014), V/H/S Viral (2014), Southbound (2015), Tales of Halloween (2015), A Christmas Horror Story (2015), The ABCs of Death 2.5 (2016), Holidays (2016), Terrified (2017; aka Aterrados, a pseudo-anthology), Oats Studios, Vol. 1 (2017), Ghost Stories (2017), XX (2017), All the Creatures Were Stirring (2018), The Field Guide to Evil (2018), Shudder’s series Creepshow (2019), Scare Package (2019) and Xenophobia (2019).

There’s something so 80s nostalgic about a young paper boy (Tristan Byon) biking his route. The tone during the opening sequence feels a lot like we’re embarking on Lemony Snicket’s Tales of Horror as transitions from mystical woods to Pleasantville weave a more fantasy-laced, misleadingly family-friendly vibe. This film begins feeling like a soft PG-13 horror. But viewer beware. There is some very graphic gore within this anthology.

Our paper boy ascends a long, moss-shrouded stone staircase from the woods to a lone funeral home to meet at the door, much to his horror, a man toeing the line between Phantasm’s (1979) Angus Scrimm (The Tall Man) and Poltergeist II’s (1986) Julian Beck (Kane)—the funeral home’s mortician: Montgomery Dark (Clancy Brown; The Bride, Nothing Left to Fear, John Dies at the End).

Responding to a “help wanted” sign, Sam (Caitlin Custer; Cinema Verite) sits with the venerable mortician and asks to hear stories of the lives that have been ushered to the great beyond. And from this storytelling comes our anthology in the most enjoyable style of Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), in which, story by story, the wraparound story also develops.

These are some VERY well-crafted horror segments! Refreshingly good, in fact, boasting gorgeous photography, lighting and set design; some unsubtle social commentary; good acting and writing as well. They all revolve around consequences for misdeeds. Themes include the petty theft, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, safe sex, marriage, mortality, caretaking for ill loved ones, escaped mental patients, child murders and babysitters in horror. In my opinion it approaches all of these issues well, and in largely fresh style.

The segments are as follows:

1) A vignette about a lovely thief at a party who goes too far and befalls a back-breaking fate by a tentacle monster. Yes, I spoiled this one, but it’s just a few minutes long—an amuse bouche, if you will.

2) Two college students find themselves powerfully drawn to one another at a frat party. One (Jacob Elordi), a smooth college upperclassman advocating safe sex but also always looking to get laid. The other (Ema Horvath; The Gallows Act II, What Lies Below), a quiet freshman who is clearly interested. After a night of unprotected sex at a frat party, Jake has… a bit of a problem.

3) Betrothed to a now terminally ill catatonic wife (Sarah Hay), the husband (Barak Hardley) has become the caretaker and his life has been stripped away along with their savings… and his freedom and dreams. After taking some friendly advice from her doctor (Mike C. Nelson) in order to convenience the husband, things go horribly wrong.

4) A disturbed escapee from the local mental asylum breaks into a house defended only by the babysitter. This features a brutal and quite credible fight—very exciting. A fun twist on the babysitter horror motif.

As previously mentioned, the gore was much more intense than I had expected. There are some significant pregnancy-related gooey effects and the birth scene is superbly graphic; excellently heavy blood work along with some monstrous make-up effects; a laughably gross and brutal genital effect; a fun (and mean) meat grinder gag; stylish kid zombies; and a fantastic head smash as well!

The closing portion of the wraparound was strong. When a horror anthology shows so much care for its wraparound story (from the start), I’m comforted that I’m in for something good. Creepshow (1982), Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990) and Trick ‘r Treat (2007) come to mind as some of the best, as did they have some of the most consistently impressive stories within. What’s the common denominator? All three had a single director, and two of those three had a single writer of all stories; so their quality and production value were consistent. Likewise, this anthology’s key to success would have to be the single writer and single director of the entire movie, Ryan Spindell, ushering in his first feature film in most estimable fashion. Just as I said about Michael Dougherty in 2007 after his first film Trick ‘r Treat, I cannot wait to see whatever movie he does next! Strong recommendation!

This was low in my queue until I listened to the largely spoiler-free pulp review in Beyond the Void Podcast’s episode 215: Top 30 Horror Movies of 2020.

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