Saturday, February 2, 2013

Mortuary (1983)

I want you to take a look at the above poster. Looks like a zombie movie, doesn't it? Now, watch this trailer

This of course, is a case of misleading advertising. Why? Because in reality, "Mortuary" is anything but a zombie movie. In fact, it's a slasher movie that at times barely qualifies as that.

Christine Parson (Mary McDonough) believes that the death of her father was not accidental, but in fact murder. With the help of her boyfriend (David Wallace), she starts to investigate, and discovers that there's something weird going on at the local mortuary. Something involving weird, Satanic seances, a creepy Mortician (Christopher George, in his last role before his death a few months later) and his geeky, awkward son (Bill Paxton.)

If Ghost Face from the "Scream" movies replaced his mask with corpse paint

"Mortuary" actually starts out and concludes in an interesting fashion. The location is creepy, the cult angle is ripe for potential and the score by Joe Cacavas is an eerie and effective. However, the end result becomes a mix of good ideas and really bad ones. The acting is alright (though Paxton steals the show), but nobody here outside of McDonough and Paxton's characters are interesting. There's a little bloodshed, but only a little. In fact, the movie feels more like it wants to be a Gothic horror movie than it does a slasher, and that it's a bit embarrassed by the latter aspect. That's a little understandable considering the fact that by 1983, there were now too many slasher movies, but it forgets things like the Satanic cult, which kind of bungles the potential for the former. Besides, in a movie like this, a little splatter would have helped.

Then there's the direction and script. The direction by Howard Avedis occasionally shows moments of inspiration, but for the large part resembles a generic TV movie that just happens to have a little nudity and blood. The script by Avedis and Marlene Schmidt is all over the place, going from an occult mystery to a slasher to a "Psycho" style tale of childhood traumas and the effects on the abused  on the drop of a hat. There's little actual attention to a coherent plot structure here, and the fact that the killers identity halfway through and that it drops the ball with the whole cult subplot doesn't help the movie's favor.

So you're telling my there's a chance...

Honestly, if it wasn't for Paxton's performance and a few nice touches here and there, I wouldn't remember anything about "Mortuary." The end result feels like a missed opportunity, as it's a schizophrenic, disjointed mess that never manages to recover it's flaws. Far from terrible, but nothing spectacular either.

Rating: 5/10

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