Fantasia 2020: ‘The Mortuary Collection’ Anthology is an Impressive Delight
Horror anthologies are ever-popular and evergreen, giving audiences a chilling collection of tales that allow for fully realized frights without the stories overstaying their welcome. The Mortuary Collection is like a five-course meal, each dish with its own flavour and purpose. Writer/director Ryan Spindell — in his feature film debut, no less — has whipped up an impressive, cohesive storytelling spectacle that will surely satisfy.
At Raven’s End Mortuary, Montgomery Dark (a heavily made-up Clancy Brown) presides over the funeral rites of corpses whose histories he keeps recorded in the countless books on his shelves. One day, a young woman named Sam (Caitlin Fisher) answers his Help Wanted sign, and her curiosity about death and his past “clients” leads him to relate a few of the most bizarre tales.
The stories span over four decades — from the 50s to the 80s — and the production design for each is absolutely perfect. The sets? Perfect. The costumes? Perfect. The cinematography, the lighting, the props? All perfect. It’s an undeniably beautiful film that I really want to just curl up and live inside (the house! I die).
The aesthetic is everything you want it to be, and then a little bit more. Right from the opening moments of the film, you’re drawn in by the detailed setting and enchanting score by Mondo Boys (She Dies Tomorrow, Phoenix Forgotten). There’s a fairytale quality to it all that you immediately want to be a part of.
The first story told (in which a savvy pickpocket’s curiosity is ultimately her undoing, set in the 50s) has a gorgeous symmetry in every shot that just makes your brain happy. The second segment (wherein a recklessly promiscuous frat boy learns about safe sex — the 60s) has fantastic comedic timing and brilliant execution of close-up shots. The third (a husband caring for his catatonic wife becomes desperate in the 70s) plays with emotion and tone, right up to its visually stunning conclusion. The fourth tale (a babysitter comes to blows with an escaped asylum patient — naturally, the 80s) was first a short film from which The Mortuary Collection blossomed, delivering all the tropes you know and love before shaking them up for one final showdown.
Each segment plays differently, but the benefit of having them all behind Spindell’s capable helm is that — despite the variations in tone and even decade — they all form one cohesive film. It would be incredibly easy for this type of feature to become a mish-mash of ideas, but Spindell masterfully weaves everything together so that it doesn’t feel like a spattering of parts.
It’s a wonderful collection of cautionary tales that deserves a place on the mantle of great horror anthologies. The Mortuary Collection has the vibe of Creepshow with the polished quality of Trick ‘R Treat. You can see a deep love for EC Horror comics and anthology films of the 70s and 80s running through its veins. Above all, it’s just plain whimsical fun with tales that will tickle your horror-loving brain.
As Montgomery Dark states in the film, it’s not the length of the tale, it’s the quality of the content. If you by any means enjoy horror anthologies — hell, even if you don’t — The Mortuary Collection should find its way onto your watchlist. It’s bloody, it’s beautiful, and it’s got charming character coming out of every creepy crevice.
You can watch The Mortuary Collection as part of Fantasia 2020’s digital film festival. For more from Fantasia Fest 2020, click here to read my review of Neil Marshall’s The Reckoning.
Jean-Claude Van Damme Rumored to Appear as a Ghost in ‘Beetlejuice 2’
During The Hot Mic Podcast, the crew spoke about Jenna Ortega in talks to play Lydia’s daughter. Well, it turns out that the guys on Hot Mic also heard that an aging action star is set to play a ghost in the sequel as well. Over on Arrow in the Head, the direction of the aging action star immediately took the shape of Jean-Claude Van Damme. However, there are options out there that may point to other action stars like Sylvester Stallone. To be honest we would be totally fine with either of these guys coming to the world of Beetlejuice and playing a ghost.
The synopsis for Beetlejuice went like this:
After Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam Maitland (Alec Baldwin) die in a car accident, they find themselves stuck haunting their country residence, unable to leave the house. When the unbearable Deetzes (Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones) and teen daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder) buy the home, the Maitlands attempt to scare them away without success. Their efforts attract Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), a rambunctious spirit whose “help” quickly becomes dangerous for the Maitlands and innocent Lydia.
We can’t wait to find out if this bit of info is true. So far, we know that Jenna Ortega has been in talks to play Lydia’s daughter in the Tim Burton directd sequel. It will also see a return of Michael Keaton.
We will be sure to keep you updated on future Beetlejuice sequel updates.
‘The Lighthouse’ Comes to Special 4K UHD A24 Collectors Release
If it is one thing we know it is that we love Robert Eggers. Between The VVitch and The Lighthouse we were made into huge fans. Next up, Eggers will take on Nosferatu. In the meantime, A24 has released a very special edition release of The Lighthouse on 4K UHD.
The synopsis for The Lighthouse goes like this:
Two lighthouse keepers try to maintain their sanity while living on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.
Disc extras include:
○ Director’s Commentary with Robert Eggers
○ Exclusive mini-documentary on composer Mark Korven
○ Costume walkthrough and interview with costume designer Linda Muir
○ 2019 making-of featurette
○ Deleted scenes Book contents include:
○ Storyboard excerpts by David Cullen
○ Production design drawings by Craig Lathrop
○ BTS photography by Eric Chakeen
○ Bib-front shirt pattern made by Marvin Schlichting to Linda Muir’s design
We can’t wait to add this one to our collection. You can pick up your very own copy right over HERE at A24.
‘Scream VII’ Greenlit, But Should the Franchise Take a Decade-Long Rest Instead?
Bam! Bam! Bam! No that’s not a shotgun inside the bodega in Scream VI, it’s the sound of producer’s fists rapidly hitting the green light button to further franchise favorites (i.e. Scream VII).
With Scream VI barely out of the gate, and a sequel reportedly filming this year, it seems horror fans are the ultimate target audience to get ticket sales back at the box office and away from “press play” streaming culture. But maybe it’s too much too soon.
If we haven’t learned our lesson already, banging out cheap horror movies in quick succession isn’t exactly a fool-proof strategy to get butts in theater seats. Let’s pause in a moment of silence to remember the recent Halloween reboot/retcon. Although the news of David Gordon Green blowing off the gossamer and resurrecting the franchise in three installments was great news in 2018, his final chapter did nothing but put the tarnish back on the horror classic.
Possibly drunk on the moderate success of his first two films, Green advanced to a third one very quickly but failed to provide fan service. Criticisms of Halloween Ends mainly hinged on the lack of screen time given to both Michael Myers and Laurie Strode and instead on a new character that didn’t have anything to do with the first two films.
“Honestly, we never once considered making a Laurie and Michael movie,” the director told Moviemaker. “The concept that it should be a final showdown-type brawl never even crossed our minds.”
How’s that again?
Although this critic enjoyed the last film, many found it off-course and perhaps a stand-alone that should have never been connected to the redeveloped canon. Remember Halloween came out in 2018 with Kills releasing in 2021 (thanks to COVID) and finally Ends in 2022. As we know, the Blumhouse engine is fueled by brevity from script to screen, and although it can’t be proven, hammering out the last two films so quickly might have been integral to its critical undoing.
Which brings us to the Scream franchise. Will Scream VII get underbaked purely because Paramount wants to reduce its cooking time? Also, too much of a good thing can make you sick. Remember, everything in moderation. The first movie was released in 1996 with the next almost exactly a year later, then the third three years after that. The latter is considered the weaker of the franchise, but still solid.
Then we enter the decade release timeline. Scream 4 released in 2011, Scream (2022) 10 years after that. Some may say, “well hey, the difference in release times between the first two Scream movies was exactly that of the reboot.” And that is correct, but consider that Scream (’96) was a film that changed horror movies forever. It was an original recipe and ripe for back-to-back chapters, but we are now five sequels deep. Thankfully Wes Craven kept things sharp and entertaining even through all the parodies.
Conversely, that same recipe also survived because it took a decade-long hiatus, giving new trends time to develop before Craven attacked the newer tropes in another installment. Remember in Scream 3, they still used fax machines and flip phones. Fan theory, social media and online celebrity were developing fetuses at that time. Those trends would be incorporated into Craven’s fourth movie.
Fast-forward another eleven years and we get Radio Silence’s reboot (?) which made fun of the new terms “requel” and “legacy characters.” Scream was back and fresher than ever. Which leads us to Scream VI and a change of venue. No spoilers here, but this episode seemed oddly reminiscent of re-hashed past storylines, which may have been a satire in and of itself.
Now, it’s been announced that Scream VII is a go, but it leaves us to wonder how such a short hiatus is going to fare with nothing in the horror zeitgeist to channel. In all of this race to get the big bucks, some are saying Scream VII could only top its predecessor by bringing back Stu? Really? That, in my opinion, would be a cheap effort. Some also say, that sequels often bring in a supernatural element, but that would be out of place for Scream.
Could this franchise do with a 5-7 year hiatus before it ruins itself on principle? That break would allow time and new tropes to develop — the franchise’s life’s blood — and mostly the power behind its success. Or is Scream heading into the “thriller” category, where the characters are just going to face another killer(s) in a mask without the irony?
Perhaps that is what the new generation of horror fans want. It could work of course, but the spirit of the canon would be lost. True fans of the series will spot a bad apple if Radio Silence does anything uninspired with Scream VII. That’s a lot of pressure. Green took a chance in Halloween Ends and that didn’t pay off.
All that being said, Scream, if anything, is a masterclass at building hype. But hopefully, these movies don’t turn into the campy iterations they make fun of in Stab. There is still some life left in these films even if Ghostface doesn’t have time to catnap. But as they say, New York never sleeps.