There is a vacancy at Raven’s End Mortuary, though the body which is sought by undertaker Montgomery Dark is not of the variety he is accustomed to, and he has dealt with more than a few unusual corpses down the years; no, the person whom he requires is, unusually, one who is still breathing, to be his new assistant.
Sam has no experience in the mortuary arts but insists that she is a fast learner, and to initiate her into the trade Montgomery Dark will test her with stories of the dearly departed of Raven’s End, a picturesque town with more than its share of shocking death: “Every corpse tells a story. It is our task to listen, to uncover the clues and extract the truth.”
Stories not just of how people died but why, this is The Mortuary Collection, the debut feature by writer/director Ryan Spindell, an anthology of cautionary tales wrapped around by the cold embrace of Montgomery Dark and his embalming fluid, Carnivàle‘s Clancy Brown posing as Phantasm‘s Tall Man as he initiates the perhaps too-eager Sam, Caitlin Custer of Spindell’s 2015 short The Babysitter Murders, included here as the final twist of the knife.
So Sam learns of the pickpocket at the society party who was unable to resist the lure of the bathroom cabinet, locked for good reason, of Jake Matthews (Jacob Elordi), the too-handsome scholar at the Raven’s End School of Technology whose disregard for women left him with an unwanted surprise the morning after, of Wendell Owens (Barak Hardley), devoted husband of Carol (Sarah Hay), unable to bear her prolonged suffering…
With glorious saturated colour and period costumes, set decoration and vehicles, many of them loaned to the production by a local vintage automobile enthusiast group, Spindell has crafted The Mortuary Collection into something far in excess of the modest budget, capturing the magical ambiance of early Spielberg, Dante and del Toro, a framed photograph of humble smalltown America whose reverse is rotted with mould, the apple pie filled with corpse maggots.
Structured almost as children’s stories but with a very adult subtext and bloody execution, The Mortuary Collection comprises subverted and thwarted romances, surprises, horror and social commentary and never fails to look less than magnificent; presented at FrightFest at the Glasgow Film Festival by Spindell, he commented that if he died tomorrow he would be proud of the one film he made, a sentiment fully justified although it would be preferable if he were not the subject of any potential sequel.