Mortuary (2005)

APRIL 15, 2008


In retrospect, it’s kind of a good thing that Tobe Hooper made a real lot of crap in the 80s and especially the 90s. Because it forever lowered my expectations for his newer films, and then I happily enjoy them. It worked for Toolbox Murders, and now it worked again for Mortuary (which has the same writers – maybe it’s just them. His Dance of the Dead MoH is the worst thing he, or anyone else, has ever made). It’s no Chain Saw or Poltergeist, but it’s enjoyable, which is more than I can say for anything Carpenter has done since 1996.

Old reports on Bloody-Disgusting say that this film is supposed to be set in Arkham, Massachusetts, but I don’t see that mentioned anywhere. In fact, on the DVD, the making-of shows a scene where they have to redo a line because the script is no longer set in Pomona, CA (where it was filmed). So I dunno where the hell its supposed to be, but it’s certainly not Massachusetts (there is still some Lovecraftian influence in the film – mainly a quote on one of the tombs). And I was also a bit puzzled by the setting, as the kid complains that they are in the middle of nowhere, but it’s clearly just a Los Angeles suburb.

Speaking of the kid (Dan Byrd - who incidentally starred in a remake of Hooper's Salem's Lot), he, the hot female co-star, and the town real estate guy have the absolute most annoying voices ever heard in a film. Byrd sounds like he’s talking in his sleep, and practically sings half of his lines; the girl sounds like a damn frog, and real estate guy just laughs like Dr. Hibbert almost nonstop. Luckily he’s not around much (this is NOT another real estate horror movie, hurrah!).

On that note, it actually took me a while to figure out WHAT kind of horror movie this was. Slasher? Zombie? Witch? It’s a slow burn, and that’s kind of why I liked it. There’s nothing wrong with taking your time and developing character, setting atmosphere, all that good stuff that is often skipped over (especially in DTV movies). On the commentary, it’s revealed that a PG-13 was considered, and honestly, the trimming it would take to make this a reality would hardly be damaging; the film would still work without the occasional gore or F bomb. Besides, any movie with the line “Together we can stop graveyard babies!” is automatically at least OK. The eventual menace is pretty unique – this sort of wiry sludge stuff (it looks like a spider’s leg) that sort of zombifies you. And there’s a really cool side effect – everyone just repeats one of the last things they said when they were alive.

It’s also kind of a downer. Just about everyone dies, and other than a few requisite punk kids, they’re all nice, good people. As I pointed out in the Lake Dead review, when they only kill off the people who do something bad, the movie automatically loses the possibility of suspense.

The only real bummer is that the ending is pretty effects heavy, and the effects aren’t very good. It’s one thing when bad effects are just the order of the day, but when they more or less “save them” for the finale, they should be a lot better than what is shown here. Hilariously, on the commentary track, Hooper points out “those are CGI rocks”, as if there was any doubt.

The commentary is otherwise pretty good; Hooper’s interesting to listen to, and he talks about a lot of the production troubles (CA was hit with the worst rain in 50 years during production – sinking sets and the like) and other nuts and bolts stuff. They shower a bit too much praise on the average acting, but that’s OK. Speaking of the actors – the bully I mentioned before is played by Bug Hall! Fucking Alfalfa from the terrible 1994 Little Rascals movie! Sweet!

There is also a decent enough, and lengthy, making-of documentary. It covers a lot of the same ground, but instead of Hooper praising the actors, we see a lot of the actors and crew gushing about Hooper. Everyone loves everyone, yay! There’s also a hilarious bit of Adam Gierasch, one of the writers, getting lunch while in his corpse makeup.

Give it a watch. It’s nothing particularly amazing or anything, but it’s solid, old school (except for the CG) slow-burn horror.

What say you?


  1. Wait. . . you LIKED this movie? How!? What? It was so skitzophrenic, you said it yourself, it couldn't pick what it wanted to be and that was its broken crutch and ultimate downfall.

    Also, yet again you fail to notice details which is the primary point of being a movie critic/reviewer. He wasn't a real estate agent he was the town mayor. The sheriff says so in the 'graveyard babies' scene but I guess you were so wrapped up in that line to notice.

  2. Sir/Madam, if you'd bother to read the FAQ on the site, you'd know that these aren't typical reviews, but "reactions" to the movie. I don't grade the films, provide a synopsis, or any other typical things. I just sort of reflect on what I liked/didn't like about it and whether or not I was entertained. Forgive me if I get a few details wrong here and there. But feel free to keep insulting my reviewing abilities anonymously. There are well over a thousand here, I'm sure I've gotten arbitrary character professions wrong in some others.


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