Fantasia 2020 Review: The Mortuary Collection

Striking the perfect balance between devious and mischievous, The Mortuary Collection is bound to be a favorite dark anthology for years to come.

Rather than a collection of various filmmakers, Ryan Spindell directed and wrote all of the bits and bobs of The Mortuary Collection. Much like 2017’s Ghost Stories there is a wraparound tale binding these various stories together in a cohesive manner, and that framing device is much closer to the material than they would like to think.

Sam (Caitlin Custer) arrives at the Raven’s End Mortuary to answer their help wanted sign. We can see from the piles of newspapers outside that this town is no stranger to strange occurrences. The presiding mortician (Clancy Brown) has just finished services for a young boy, and reluctantly agrees to talk to Sam about the vacancy. Sitting down in his library, she asks him about the contents of the volumes of books surrounding them.

These are no ordinary books. They contain the stories of the people who have come through the mortuary, and they are anything but ordinary. With some pleading and reverse psychology, the mortician tells Sam four stories of how four people ended up in this house.

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Each of the stories are darker than the fairytale tone of The Mortuary Collection. Though the film feels to have the same playfulness as The House with a Clock in Its Walls or Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, this collection is far more gruesome and dark.

First up, a tale of a thief who lets her curiosity get the best of her. Then, a horny fraternity brother gets a taste of his own medicine. Next, a husband deals with the “parting” difficulty in “‘Till death do us part.” And finally, a babysitter contends with an invading lunatic. Each of the sections elevates the gore and twists the story to show some projection of morality. Sam is less than impressed, but she is invested.

The production value of The Mortuary Collection is incredible. Immersive sets, period conveying costumes, and fully orchestral score whisk you away to this world of heightened danger and darkness. With such deadly possibilities it is a wonder the people of Raven’s End can survive at all.

While there are obvious lessons in each of the tales, they are clearly fabricated for Sam’s benefit. The town itself is anything but ordinary, but this version of the town and its people are put through the sieve of the mortician for his manipulation of Sam.

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The various segments of The Mortuary Collection are far from innovative, and perhaps could be described as predictable, but that is also an understanding outcome of these heavy-handed types of stories. We know stealing is bad and cannibalism is too, and seeing this upheld on screen makes sense. The lessons that Sam learns are not ones she is unaware of, though they may be ones she chooses to ignore.

The Mortuary Collection is as whimsical as it is pernicious. It is the cinematic embodiment on an evil grin, and an ambrosial discovery at this year’s virtual Fantasia Film Fest.

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