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Review: ‘The Mortuary Collection’ makes funeral homes even creepier (Includes first-hand account)

The horror anthology is a long-standing genre tradition. Sometimes the short stories share a common thread, and other times the only connection between tales is the framing story. Sometimes they are all written by a single storyteller, and other times it’s a collaborative effort between multiple writers and directors. Sometimes the collections are a good mix of quality scares and eerie atmospheres, and other times one or all of the stories fall short of being good. Yet the promise of a creepy compilation of scary stories keeps fans coming back for another try. The Mortuary Collection is a horror anthology that unsurprisingly originates in a funeral home.

Shortly after an especially sad service’s conclusion at Raven’s End Mortuary, a young woman arrives in response to the “help wanted” sign hanging out front. Montgomery Dark (Clancy Brown) welcomes Sam (Caitlin Fisher) into the morose establishment, but is initially hesitant to satisfy her curiosity about the corpses’ histories, which he records in a morbid library. But after a little coercion he agrees to share how some of his clients met their demise. The first tale is about a pickpocket who gets her slimy comeuppance; the next is a promiscuous frat boy who learns the importance of safe sex; followed by a husband who finds freeing himself of his catatonic wife challenging; and finally, a classic account of every (fictional) babysitter’s worst nightmare.

Sam is appropriately unimpressed by the first story, which is rather brief and odd, but not especially engaging. The next tale is far more enticing, featuring an attractive young couple in a romance gone awry. It’s infused with humour at the expense of its male lead, though it’s difficult to feel sorry for him. Next up is a much darker comedy as a trapped husband inadvertently turns a simple offense into a messy debacle with little chance of escape. However, the final story is truly the film’s climax. With a child killer escaped from the asylum, a babysitter must try to keep the murderer at bay. What’s most amusing is the young woman’s actions mirror those of the protagonist in the slasher movie, “The Babysitter Massacre,” which she’s watching on TV — a meta-moment cleverly manufactured by writer/director Ryan Spindell, who especially created the in-screen movie to play within the short.

In spite of Brown’s heavily made-up disguise, his distinctive voice provides the perfect narration for these eerie tales, alongside the unnerving banter he shares with Sam. The stories unfold in a vague past that seems to straddle the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. But their timelines are less important than their spellbinding content. Even the framing story delivers its own — not wholly unpredictable — twist, closing the film with one last surprise. Accompanied by a spooky soundtrack by Mondo Boys and presented in uncharacteristically vibrant, saturated colours, the picture is added to the list of horror anthologies worth watching.

The Mortuary Collection had its Quebec premiere at the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival.

Director: Ryan Spindell
Starring: Clancy Brown, Caitlin Custer and Christine Kilmer

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Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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