“You have your collection… and I have mine.”
Welcome to Raven’s End, a sleepy coastal town full of history… much of it ending at the local mortuary run by old Montgomery Dark (Clancy Brown). Following a funeral with a disturbingly small coffin, a young woman named Sam (Caitlin Custer) inquires about the “help wanted” sign hanging outside, and Dark is only too happy to provide a tour while he considers her employment. What follows is a series of tales, each more macabre than the next, as the two of them explore deeper into the heart of the funeral home and into themselves. When the last tale is told and the final secret is revealed, nothing will ever be the same (insert sinister laugh here).
Horror anthologies are an enjoyable and flexible way for a writer/director to explore multiple concepts while still providing an adequate body count and a feature-length running time. From Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat to the Creepshow film series, there’s usually a wrap-around story that ties everything together. Director Ryan Spindell has plenty of horror film shorts already to his credit, including one called “The Babysitter Murders” that began as a Kickstarter campaign before being folded into part of this debut feature. With a big-name actor in the lead, five stories to tell, and barely enough funding to get the entire concept shot, cut, and in the can any way they can, does this collection all come together in the end, or does it belong buried in an unmarked grave?
Appearing to take place between the 1950s and the early 1970s, these individual spine-tinglers strike the perfect discord between humor and horror, including some rather sophisticated storytelling and a willingness “to go there.” Happily unrated and gleefully graphic, each trespass and iniquity receives its just comeuppance, with characters over-punished in classic horror style. The level of detail and attention will convince viewers this is a mid-to-high budget production, but calling in every favor, getting communities involved on location shoots, and a lot of ingenuity delivers some amazing practical effects on the cheap, falling back upon CGI only when necessary. This is the black diamond in the rough every horror fan craves.
The extras included with the collection are just as amazing for both aspiring filmmakers and those who appreciate the dedication that making a movie really takes. Thrift stores, donations, and carte blanche access to studio prop houses enabled the artisans to craft interiors, redress locations, and replicate a period look and feel… even borrowing a few things from other feature films that viewers won’t guess at until they’re shown. In addition to a cast as game as the director, The Mondo Boys not only created the entire film score but five original songs sounding like they were lifted from obscurity in a most Quentin Tarantino way; sadly, the soundtrack is not for sale but damn well should be.
Don’t look for any spoilers here; viewers will have to get their own copies, see the movie, and devour the extras for themselves. Blood, guts, corpses, and exploding body parts are all part of the show, so be warned: this isn’t for the squeamish. Could it earn a sequel and another set of gruesome stories? Spend an evening in Raven’s End for an unforgettable evening… and tell them Ash, Burn-adette, and Char-lie sent you.
The Mortuary Collection is unrated, so suck it up, buttercup.
Four skull recommendation out of four