The Mortuary Collection

The problem with anthology films is that, because they tell multiple stories, some segments end up being better than others. The Mortuary Collection, available on the Shudder streaming service, bypasses that obstacle by having just one writer/director, rather than several. Ryan Spindell's film therefore has a consistency that these pictures tend to lack, even when they're done well. This stylish, confidently-made movie is perfect viewing for Halloween, or any time you want a jolt of clever horror.

Clancy Brown, in one of his best-ever performances, plays mortician Montgomery Dark. He's visited one day by Sam (Caitlin Custer), a young woman applying for a job. She shows an interest in the dark, disturbing nature of his work, and begs him to tell her stories about the most twisted ways people have died. Dark is more than happy to oblige.

The first tale is short and snappy, about a woman who snoops in a medicine cabinet and regrets it. The second involves a womanizing college student (Jacob Elordi) who finds himself in an unusual state after a one-night-stand. In the third, a guy's attempt to perform a mercy killing on his gravely ill wife goes wrong in catastrophic ways. Finally, there's a story about a babysitter trapped in a house with a psycho killer – while watching a movie about a babysitter trapped in a house with a psycho killer.

Each of the tales builds to a shocking finale, and each has suitably gruesome imagery. At the same time, there's a tongue-in-cheek quality to The Mortuary Collection that plants it firmly in the vein of Tales from the Crypt and Creepshow. In most cases, there's a weird, darkly funny irony at the end, especially in the story about the college guy. Seeing where each one takes us is a pleasure.

Special attention has been paid to the wraparound story, too. Montgomery Dark isn't just here to be a host; he's part of his own narrative. Brown is visibly having a blast in the role, exuding creepiness and spewing macabre dialogue with a cheerful quality. Interestingly, the wraparound is probably the best story of the bunch. Usually these are an afterthought, but Spindell clearly gave a lot of attention to it.

The Mortuary Collection also benefits from production design that mixes decades, leaving us uncertain when it takes place (which creates a nice mystique), as well as stylish camera work. Good performances, particularly from Brown, add to the impact. In a horror subgenre that tends to be very hit-or-miss, this movie is pleasingly consistent throughout.

out of four

The Mortuary Collection is unrated, but contains adult language, sexuality, and graphic violence. The running time is 1 hour and 48 minutes.