Mortuary, directed by Tobe Hooper, received a limited theatrical release in 2006. The film tells the story of the Doyle family, who, after the unexpected death of the family patriarch, decide to uproot to rural California, in the process taking up residence at a local graveyard and managing a failing mortuary business. The mortuary, Fowler Mortuary, turns out to be the stuff of local legend, as the body of disfigured and abused Bobby Fowler had never been found.
The Doyle’s know something is wrong but they can’t place exactly what, as they are also left to deal with a host of eccentric and unhelpful locals, from a horny and corrupt real estate agent, to a sex-obsessed local sheriff, to a gang of street tough teenagers. Meanwhile, more and more bodies end up missing and a mysterious black fungus infects the entire house and mortuary complex. As the fungus infects both the living and dead, the house is overrun by brain-dead zombies.
I enjoyed Mortuary, as it certainly has some unique elements and I couldn’t tell where it was heading next. Borrowing liberally from Japanese-style ghost stories, the film I feel stands out with its unconventional story structure and its ability to keep viewers guessing. Some would say that equates to a poorly made film, but something about the execution of Mortuary sticks with you. The “zombies” appear neither good nor evil; they just are. It’s an obvious point about zombies in general, but most films fail in that sense.
As Mortuary continues on, the mysterious black fungus becomes more and more suffocating. It’s disgusting to watch its uncontrollable spread, and you almost expect the fungus to swallow the camera itself, leaving the entire ending a mystery. Even the film’s special effects give off an aura of mystery, as CGI effects are largely (and maybe entirely) replaced by more traditional techniques such as stop motion.
As a “B movie” I would say Mortuary succeeds. It’s not the best film I’ve been by any means, but I’ve seen far worse. There are some very negative reviews of Mortuary floating around, but I suspect some of them are based on the film being directed by Tobe Hooper, of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre fame. Hooper remains a legend of horror, but our expectations of his work rarely come to fruition. It’s best to forget entirely about Hooper’s involvement and just to enjoy the film for what is, a strangely unique zombie film whose imagery will stay with you in some way.
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