The Mortuary Collection (2019) — Five tales from Death’s doorkeeper

“It’s about the universal balance of all things.”

Justin’s rating: Dearly beloved, gather together for one last accounting…

Justin’s review: In my time as a pastor, I’ve done many funerals and met plenty of funeral directors. Almost of all of these people have been compassionate and surprisingly warm, helping the grieving through one of the worst days of their life.

But then there is the overseer of The Mortuary Collection, and it seems that this man has taken a different path in life than most — even most other funeral directors. And it’s this man, Montgomery Dark (played by Shawshank Redemption’s Clancy Brown), who has some stories to tell us. Tales only a man who has seen death on a daily basis could tell.

I’d heard incredibly good things about this movie, and as I’ve always been a sucker for an anthology of the strange and unusual, I was on board with the setting. Montgomery is the story-obsessed director of Raven’s End Funeral Home, a place which seems to exist less in our world and more in the pages of a musty tome tucked into the dark recesses of a library.

One day, a young lady named Sam (Caitlin Custer) arrives to answer a help wanted ad to become Montgomery’s assistant. As part of her indoctrination, the elderly mortician regales her with four of the more unique stories of people who have died in the town. There are more than hints of the supernatural at play in Raven’s End, as well as sinister justice that awaits the guilty.

There’s a story of a medicine cabinet with a monster lurking inside, a different kind of pregnancy, a never-ending elevator ride, and a nightmarish night of babysitting. None of these are believable in our reality, belonging to a world that is only accessed by a flickering campfire, in a bedroom during a thunderstorm, or at a party on All Hallow’s Eve.

Anthology movies aren’t as commonplace as their book and television counterparts, and it’s always great to get one that shows a lot of imagination, such as Trick ‘r Treat or Creepshow. The key mix here isn’t just to tell a spooky ooky ghost story, but to give us memorable characters, a world that sucks you in with details, a few squicky bits of gore, and a good laugh or two along the way. The best part is that if you’re not really connecting with the story, all you need to do is wait a bit — another one is right around the bend.

The Mortuary Collection is lushly filmed, especially in the titular funeral home where giant bird stained glass windows, glass domed specimens, and musty halls give you the impression that you’d love to take a tour (but not, of course, spend the night).

The fifth story here is the wrapper, where Montgomery and Sam learn more about each other and this odd profession. I won’t spoil anything here, but there’s something going on with these two and this place that’s just as otherwordly as some of their tales.

Overall, it’s good, although sometimes too much in love with giving us gruesome moments that it sacrifices the truly great Twilight Zone build-up that it does otherwhere. The Mortuary Collection is best when it’s about atmosphere and character — not so much with blood squibs and jump scares.

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