31 Days of Hell: The Mortuary Collection (2020) - Reviewed

 

Photo Courtesy of Shudder

To get into the perfect Halloween spirit, watching a good horror anthology is downright mandatory.  There’s nothing better than viewing some short-form scares to get people in the mood for some cider and pumpkin-carving.  Thankfully for us, Ryan Spindell delivers the perfect Halloween treat in his Shudder exclusive, The Mortuary Collection.

Taking inspiration from spooky anthology classics like Creepshow, The Mortuary Collection features the soon-to-be-retired mortician Montgomery Dark (Clancy Brown) as our narrator, regaling a young lady interested in his craft with some of his most unusual tales.  As an “ancient servant to the great beyond,” Montgomery’s stories about his deceased clients come to life for us, depicting strange creatures, supernatural occurrences, and a fair share of gore thrown into the mix.

What’s great and somewhat unique about this anthology is that a different decade is depicted in each story, giving the film a rich retro quality that’s both visually appealing and appropriate for the tales being told.  From the characters’ attire to the d├ęcor, it makes stylistic choices to stay within this world that somehow feels simultaneously timeless yet specific.  Also unique to this anthology is the fact that all of the vignettes are written and directed by Ryan Spindell rather than multiple directors, creating a unified aesthetic that works well for the film: one that basks in rich cinematography, a distinct voice, and dark imagination.

Another strong aspect of The Mortuary Collection is its ability to keep audiences laughing.  It has a playfulness about it that is the difference between watching a good Halloween film and watching a good horror film.  No matter how ghastly the story, they are all deep-rooted in a sense of lighthearted mischief and whimsy rather than sheer misery and terror.  There are not enough modern horror films that handle this tone well and revel in the fantastical elements of the genre anymore.  

The film is mostly a series of sinister morality tales, like an extra dark dose of Brothers Grimm, but it never feels too preachy or heavy-handed about its presentation.  “No evil deed goes unpunished,” says Montgomery, and his stories live up to this adage.  We see twisted punishments played out like well-choreographed dance routines and very physical embodiments of guilt assaulting the doomed characters.  Tales from the Crypt fans, rejoice: this film will feel familiar in all the right ways.  

The Mortuary Collection is a pure delight to any fan of the macabre who likes to have fun.  Not since Trick ‘R Treat has a film captured the spirit of All Hallow’s Eve like this.  It is eye candy for the senses, succinct in its storytelling, and well-played by a small but stellar cast.  Before October 31st, do yourself a favor and watch this gem.

--Andrea Riley