Horror Anthologies are hard to nail. Though always entertaining and delightful, few can hold enough steam to carry an audience eagerly through each segment. Often utilizing different directors throughout, Horror Anthologies — like V/H/S and ABC’s of Death — can lack consistency and a thematic throughline, making the segments feel something short of a hole. It wasn’t until Mike Dougherty’s stylistically perfect Trick r’ Treat in 2007 that modern horror fans got a taste of true Horror Anthology gold.
Perhaps it’s keeping too many fingers out of the pie, sticking to a sole vision, or maybe even a touch of plain darn luck, but Ryan Spindell’s The Mortuary Collection is another rare Anthology gem horror fans are going to die for.
“The Mortuary Collection is [a] rare Anthology gem horror fans are going to die for.”
In his feature debut, Spindell celebrated the World Premiere of The Mortuary Collection at 2019’s Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. Having premiered his short The Babysitter Murders (and having took home Best Director: Horror Shorts) at the 2015 fest, Spindell returned to Austin, to deliver feature-length terror with four eerie tales, all woven around a sinister mortician (Clancy Brown, Pet Sematary Two) creeping out his new hire with tales of lives snuffed out in the strangest and most macabre of ways.
The main story of The Mortuary Collection excels in being the cobweb-laden haunt we call homebase. The Mortician guides us, and his new employee (Caitlin Fisher, The Babysitter Murders), through each terrifying set-piece as the story progresses. As we depart for each individual tale, we almost miss the fresh camaraderie of our unlikely duo; the brazen, plait-braided, Girl-Next Door straight out of a Starbucks, and the Creepshowesque, Cryptkeeper-inspired Mortician, determined to tell a story worthy of a scare.
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But when we do dearly depart our duo, we are treated with four shorts of spooky perfection that delivers some of the best micro-horror fiction put to screen. Clearly, Spindell, armed with an archive of nine previous short films, has learned a thing or two about efficient, short-form filmmaking. Each segment is spectacular in its own right, but if this reluctant reviewer had to narrow it down, she’d humbly recommend the 1st segment; a 50s pinup-happy short that is only a few short minutes long (if that) and takes place entirely in a single location.. a bathroom — and the 3rd segment; involving a doting husband and his terminally ill wife, both struggling to maintain their marriage vows.. ‘till death do they part.
“..we are treated with four shorts of spooky perfection that deliver some of the best micro-horror fiction put to screen. “
And while each segment works individually, what makes The Mortuary Collection stand out among the wolfpack is keeping its thematic throughline and eerie aesthetic front and center the entire film. Horror Anthologies should feel like urban legends, myths of the Nuclear Age, stories that happened to a friend of a friend of yours. They should exist in another world, another time, one that feels as if it exists under a spotlight on a stage. If the actors dare step out of place, they might fall down the rabbit hole and land in 2019 – but for now, they are stuck in a spooky snow globe of Horror Anthology perfection, forced to relive their terrifying tale again and again, at their teller’s indefinite beck and call.
Though this debut was definitely crafted on a modest budget, the cinematography, staging, and set dressings hide any hint that The Mortuary Collection isn’t a multi-million dollar picture. Smaller segments feel like conscious choices, not made for monetary reasons but pure damn storytelling and vision.
Caitlin Fisher kills as Sam, the Mortician’s potential protege and star of the final segment. She exudes cool confidence, even when tucked between leatherbound books and cloche jars of maybe dead, maybe not, butterflies. There are parts of The Mortuary Collection I expected her to go full Anna Paquin a la Trick or Treat, even while she’s more closely channeling Ben Mears a la Salem’s Lot, venturing into the spooky Mortician’s lair.
The Mortuary Collection is everything you could want out of a horror anthology film. It has plenty of terrifying tricks up its sleeve, oozes eerieness for days, and delivers consistently creepy segments all wrapped in a spooky, cobwebby haunted house I’m already eager to re-visit. Great horror anthologies are hard to come by, and if you want this one, you’re going to have to yank it from my cold, dead, claws. (JK, I’m ready to buy a hundred copies for loaning out to anyone even remotely interested in spook)
The Mortuary Collection celebrated its world premiere at the 2019 Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. No word yet on release, but we’ll keep you posted as soon as we catch word! Read all of our coverage of the festival here, and join the conversation with the Nightmare on Film Street community over on Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!