Reviewed by Mike Ferraro
Before Terminators, Aliens, and Predators were killing Bill Paxton, he spent his time working as a nerdy embalmer in the quaint little 80s slasher flick, Mortuary. Released in 1983, the film covers pretty much every trope of the genre, and even contains a slew of character stereotypes – from the fat kid, to the nerdy kid, to the jokester with the annoying laugh. The film ends up being a very passable, yet dated and slow-moving slasher effort, that rarely offers any fresh ideals of its own. It’s worth seeking out, if only for the silly amount of fun to be had.
The film opens with a man being bashed with a baseball bat and then thrown into a pool. Everyone seems to think it was a simple drowning accident, except the man’s daughter, Christie (Mary Beth McDonough), who dreams of the incident every night. Her boyfriend Greg (David Wallace), however, starts believing her story after seeing her mother perform a séance along with fellow townsfolk (including the owner of a mortuary). Soon after, a man dressed in a black hood wanders about killing people with an embalming trocar.
So we learn quickly that Heaven’s Gate Mortuary is home to witchcraft, séances, and murder, only for as much time as this film takes in showing us these weird practices, it never actually takes a moment to explain just watch these so-called “witches” are after. Even at the film’s conclusion, we learn that the witching element has nothing to do with the actual murders. What then is the point of all of this?
Despite those flaws (and its slow moving pace), Mortuary is actually a pretty decent horror film to watch with several brews in hand (as long as you don’t take it seriously). This seems like the type of film Ti West studied prior to making House of the Dead.
Mortuary is one of the hundreds of films to follow Halloween and Friday the 13th in the late 70s/early 80s to capitalize with the genre. And, like many of the copycats of this era, it’s far from original but that doesn’t take away from its entertainment value. Seeing Paxton’s performance this early in his career is worth the price of admission alone.
The DVD contains nothing too special (aside from some trailers for other films put out by Scorpion Releasing). It would have been awesome to hear a commentary track by Paxton alone, just to hear his thoughts on the film and how it helped his career.