Directed by Howard Avedis. Written by Howard Avedis and Marlene Schmidt. Cast: Mary McDonough, Lynda Day George, Christopher George, David Wallace, Bill Paxton, Alvy Moore, Bill Conklin, Denis Mandel, Donna Garrett, Marlene Schmidt. (R, 93 mins)
A familiar title from the video store glory days, MORTUARY arrived in theaters in the fall of 1983 with one of the most misleading ad campaigns of its day. With poster art featuring a hand sticking out of a grave and a trailer that utilized footage and an actor (THE HILLS HAVE EYES' Michael Berryman) not present in the film itself, MORTUARY didn't exactly endear itself to horror fans. Instead, it's a rather straightforward suspense thriller with post-HALLOWEEN/FRIDAY THE 13TH slasher elements that too often look like clumsily-inserted gore scenes that were added after the fact, as if a distributor or someone controlling the cash flow decided the movie needed more splatter. Exploitation vet Howard Avedis (SCORCHY, THE FIFTH FLOOR) does a nice job staging some effective scare sequences throughout, and until you get a really good look at the killer ("Open the window, Christie!"), his appearance--sort of a cross between Captain Howdy from THE EXORCIST and the frontman of a Norwegian black metal band--is pretty unnerving. But Avedis lets some scenes go on too long, the killer's identity is too obvious too early, and the gore scenes aren't as well done as in some of its contemporaries. When fans today look back at a lot of these '80s slasher films, there's much misplaced nostalgia for some of them and I think it's really the era being remembered with such fondness rather than some of the individual titles. MORTUARY was not a beloved film in its time. Is it a long-buried treasure ripe for rediscovery? No. But freed from the shackles of its hysterically inaccurate one-sheet and trailer and all of those expectations, it holds up pretty well.
|Mary McDonough and Lynda Day George|
|"You two donkey dicks couldn't get laid in a morgue!"|
Scorpion's DVD, part of their "Katarina's Nightmare Theater" line, is framed at 1.78:1 and looks good overall. Some print damage here and there, and some of the murder scenes show more wear than the rest of the film, a possible indication that they came from a different source. MORTUARY has been shown with running times ranging from 84 to 91 minutes, and this DVD runs 93, so maybe there's some extra footage in spots. Extras include an interview with composer John Cacavas, and the infamous trailer that does not in any way reflect the actual film: