I’ve had the opportunity to see Ryan Spindell’s horror anthology several times. Once with a live audience at Fantastic Fest in 2019, once at the Nightstream virtual festival in 2020 and now again on Blu in 2021. My opinion of the film has changed each time.
I liked it the first time I saw it, and felt that the final (and original proof of concept) short ‘The Babysitter Murders’ was the standout. My response to the other shorts varied from bemusement (the 50s thief in the bathroom) to admiration (flipped pregnancy short ‘Unprotected’) to “meh, it’s fine” (the euthanasia-themed ‘Til Death’).
The second time I screened the film, I reviewed it for Bloody Disgusting. Like most films, a second watch allowed me to find a new appreciation for what Spindell was doing. The film’s ability to tell playful, twisted and occasionally campy morality tales across eras is reminiscent of Tales from the Crypt and, more recently, Mike Doughtery’s Trick ‘r Treat. Armed with an awareness of the plot reversals and supernatural comeuppances the film would deliver, my rewatch highlighted just how fun and confident Spindell’s anthology is (a rare feat).
This third and most recent time is on RLJE and Shudder’s excellent new Blu-Ray, which arrives loaded with tons of bonus features, including a director’s commentary, deleted scenes and 14 behind-the-scenes segments. Unlike other physical releases that offer a few morsels filmed on set, The Mortuary Collection has a segment on nearly every imaginable aspect of the film’s production – from its Kickstarter origin to the requisite featurette on the Actors, right down to the Costumes and production design.
What really shines in these segments is the passion and dedication of the multiple crews (the film was shot in Los Angeles, as well as Astoria, Oregon). While the budget for the film isn’t clear, several featurettes contain comments about the limited budget and the tight shooting schedule, suggesting that the polished aesthetic of the finished product is a testament to the expertise of the crew rather than a lavish budget.
One commendable aspect of the segments is how prominently each member of the crew is highlighted. For each individual segment, the corresponding creative talent is offered the opportunity to shine without being overshadowed by commentary by the writer/director or well known stars like Clancy Brown.
By dividing the featurettes in this way, each member of the crew gets a chance to mug for the camera, to explain their process, and to star in their own mini-film. Unlike other discs that pay brief lip service to the technical labour that went into the film, many of these featurettes are lengthy and detailed. It’s not just that they incorporate plenty of on-set footage, but also no shortage of details and fascinating trivia, right down to the number of rabbits and bills repurposed in ‘Til Death’, or how ‘The Babysitter Murders’ shifted from its original form to finished product, or how many people – 30 – were required to paint the rooms – 7 – of the frat house in ‘Unprotected’ in a single day).
If nothing else, the in-depth segments help to contextualize the amount of detail that went into making the film. It’s evident while watching The Mortuary Collection that shooting five (including the wrap-around) shorts with different actors in two different cities is a significant feat, but setting each one in a separate time period also required completely different hair, make-up, costumes, props and production design. The amount of work Spindell and his incredibly talented team put into the smallest elements only makes my admiration for the finished product work.
It’s no small feat to shoot a great film; it’s another to produce extras that reframe the audience’s appreciation for said film.
Film rating: 4/5
The Mortuary Collection is now available on Blu and DVD.
Bonus features on the DVD and Blu-ray include:
- Director’s Commentary
- 14 Extensive Behind-the-Scenes Segments, featuring the Cinematography, Costumes, Art Department, Locations, Props, Hair & Make-Up, Special Effects, Sound, Stunts, and Visual Effects of The Mortuary Collection
- In-Depth Conversations with Director and Writer Ryan Spindell, the Actors, and Crew of The Mortuary Collection
- Deleted Scenes