Starring Dan Byrd, Stephanie Patton, Tarah Paige, Price Carson, Greg Travis, Alexandra Adi, and Denise Crosby
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Distributed by Echo Bridge Entertainment
Tobe Hooper's career had lain stagnant for some time. However just like the great film killers we all love, over the last couple of years he has risen anew to wreak some horror havoc upon our senses. If there's one thing that Hooper excels at, it's creating a nightmarish setting for his characters to populate. Who could forget the lair of the Sawyer family that was strewn about like many severed entrails beneath a defunct amusement park in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2? Or, how about the deadly corpse filled labyrinth that was hidden deep within the walls of the Lusman Arms apartment complex in Hooper's recent Toolbox Murders redux? Sometimes location can be everything for a film, going so far as becoming a living breathing character in and of itself. Hooper and crew have landed a great one here. In his latest horror opus, Mortuary (not to be confused as a remake of the 1983 Bill Paxton splatter vehicle of the same name) we're taken to an actual long abandoned funeral home complete with spooky graveyard right on the front lawn, and that's exactly where the ride begins.
Enter mother of two, Leslie Doyle (Denise Pet Semetary Crosby). Leslie wants a new life for herself and her children, so she purchases an old funeral parlor in hopes of (pardon the pun) resurrecting it into a profitable business. Her kids aren't too happy about the move and new choice of profession, but they support their mom and go along for the soon-to-be ghoulish ride. The place is in bad shape. Really bad shape. Aside from yellowed paint and rotting wood, a much bigger problem is at hand. Unbeknownst to them, there's an old well under the house in which the embalming room drains into, and it hasn't been cleaned for decades. The blood, bile, and other assorted toxic waste's of hundreds of corpses has been left there to fester. Eventually it begins to take on a life of its own growing into a new form of killer fungus. The bad news for the Doyle's doesn't end there however. They also have a border they don't know about. The deformed child of the former owners and local spooky legend, Bobby Fowler, has been living in one of the on-site crypts and he and the well have developed a special relationship. He feeds it, and it through a form of undead mold, nurtures him. As you can imagine neither Bobby nor the mold appreciate the new intruders and before you know it, the dead rise, the killin' starts and we're in for some good old fashioned gore.
Sounds like all the key elements of a truly horrific tale, no? Damned right. Unfortunately, things are played rather tongue-in-cheek instead of the straight terror trip that Mortuary could have been. The humor does work on some levels, but instead of adding to the movies charm, it ends up just being a distraction that stops all of the horrific momentum that has been built up dead in its tracks. As a result, the film ends up feeling like more of a Night of the Creeps rehash than it does anything else. That alone is not too much of a bad thing, but there are other problems holding this film back from being better than just good. The main of which is, at times Mortuary seems to be unsure of what it wants to be. We've got black humor, zombies, killer CGI fungus, and a deformed killer all thrown into the mix at once, and this results in an ambitious yet muddled experience. On the positive side, Mortuary is filled with quite a few moments of gross out gags, cool looking zombies, disturbing imagery, and the acting is way above par. The cast is great at working with what it has been given, most notably, Dan (The Hills Have Eyes) Byrd. This guy is a natural and just like in Hills he brings a really honest integrity to his character. In the end, despite its identity crisis and other short comings, there's a lot to like about Mortuary.
On the DVD side of things, to my surprise genre newcomer Echo Bridge Entertainment has put together a nice little package. Truly, I expected your standard bare bones release especially from a DVD company that I had never heard of. The menus were all animated and extremely well done, and there's some meaty content to go along with the flash. The first of which is featuerette titled Inside the Graveyard. The most shocking thing about this featurette was its run-time. Usually a featurette will run about fifteen minutes to a half an hour at most. Graveyard clocks in at just under an hour, and it's rife with interviews with the cast crew. In it we get to see the making of Mortuary through various stages of production, up until its final wrap day. Good insightful stuff. Speaking of which, also included is a commentary track with Hooper, and his crew. Stories are exchanged throughout the talk that range from scene specific shenanigans to some actual ghostly occurrences. Oh? I didn't mention the location was supposedly haunted? My bad. Tack on a couple of trailers and there you have it -- a decent DVD release!
It's good to see Hooper back in form and doing what he does best. Mortuary is a fun ride, with a few pitfalls. If you can put your brain on auto pilot for a while, you may just dig on it. However, if you're expecting a more visceral experience look elsewhere. There's nothing but dumb fun to be had here during this latest gore filled romp through the land of the dead. Like I said, that's not exactly a bad thing.
Inside the Graveyard behind-the-scenes featurette with Tobe Hooper
3 out of 5
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