Mortuary (2005)

DVD Cover (Echo Bridge Entertainment)
Genres: Creature Film, Haunted House Film, Horror, Zombie Film
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Tobe Hooper Tobe Hooper
Dan Byrd Dan Byrd
Denise Crosby Denise Crosby
Stephanie Patton Stephanie Patton
Alexandra Adi Alexandra Adi
Rocky Marquette Rocky Marquette

4.4 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: February 19, 2007
A couple of days ago, I was doing some grocery shopping with the woman of the house when she decided that she wanted to spend some time in the beauty section. I decided that hanging around with her over there probably wouldn't be very exciting, so I headed to the electronics section of the store to pick through their meager DVD selection and stumbled across this: a Tobe Hooper film that I'd never even heard of. Now, I'm not claiming to be all-knowing when it comes to horror movies, but I do keep up with a variety of online dirt-sheets and found it extremely odd that I'd never heard a single mention of this flick on any of them - especially considering that it was directed by Tobe Hooper. This was not a good sign, but since it was languishing in the bargain bin for a mere five bucks (another bad sign), I decided to pick it up.

The story follows a family of three - mother Leslie Doyle (Denise Crosby), along with her son Jonathan (Dan Byrd) and daughter Jamie (Stephanie Patton) - as they move in to their new home, which will double as Leslie's funeral-home / mortuary workplace. This house is in bad shape, with the septic tank overflowing into the front yard (which also serves as a cemetery), and there's a strange black fungus covering the walls inside. They decide to make the best of this situation though, and Jonathan heads out to get a job at the local diner where he meets Liz (Alexandra Adi), the required love-interest of the film. Everything is going good until Liz tells Jonathan about the legend of Bobby Fowler. It's quite the long story (too long to tell here), but basically, this Bobby fellow was a horribly-disfigured guy who bashed his parents' head in when he turned eighteen... and he used to live in Jonathan's house, and some say that he still lives in the cemetery outside it. I think that most of you readers will see where this is going, but it only gets worse when the people involved find out that there's more to worry about than something as mundane as a disfigured murderer hanging around outside their house.

So, I encountered a few bad signs before actually purchasing the film, but it didn't get a whole lot better after the sale had been made. I checked out the IMDb page for this movie when I got home to see what the story behind it was: perhaps Tobe had been attached and replaced with another director, but the studios decided to use his name to make a few extra sales? It's been done before, and I still couldn't get over the fact that I hadn't heard a single peep about this before seeing it on a Wal*Mart shelf. What I found was confirmation that it was indeed a new Tobe Hooper film, and I also found out that it was almost universally regarded as a horrible film. Bad sign, number three. Undeterred, I decided to watch it anyway, and that's when I found that the DVD menu decided to freeze my player if I did anything other than press "Play Movie" at the main menu. I started to wonder if a higher power was trying to tell me something, but I used the "Play Movie" option anyway.

Was it a disaster? Not really, surprisingly enough. It's a decent movie, and although I can see why it didn't get a wide release or a whole lot of press, it turned out to be better than I had expected thanks to an intriguing script and some genuinely creepy scenes. There are some damned fine backdrops for our characters to explore, and there's even some Lovecraft elements thrown in for good measure (to reveal how they work their way into the plot would be a spoiler, but trust me - they're there). Denise Crosby is great in her role, and the rest of the cast is... well, they won't take home any awards for their performances, but I can't dedicate a paragraph to bitching about them either.

Now, I'm not going to defend this film against every last bit of criticism that it's received, because it does deserve a certain percentage of it. There are a number of clichéd moments to be found as the running-time elapses, the majority of the ending is silly at best, and the "shock" finale is downright laughable (although it's nice to see an ending that doesn't end with flowers and sunshine every once in a while). I won't even get into the "special" effects that were used, as there were a sad number of scenes in which the CGI wizardry went beyond horrible and into atrocious. However, there is an interesting story to be found underneath these mistakes, and with a couple of tweaks to the script, this could have been a damned good film.

Tobe Hooper is a hit or miss director, as he's had his share of both hits (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist) and misses (The Mangler, Dance of the Dead). Mortuary falls somewhere in between: it's not a great film and it'll never be held up alongside his better offerings, but it's certainly not his worst either. 6/10.
Cryptorchild #1: Cryptorchild - added 03/03/2007, 08:59 PM
You know I actually rented this movie. I got it for the same reason as you - Tobe Hooper. Having never heard of it, the first thing I watched on the dvd was the trailer. That was as far as I got. It looked horrible and I didn't even watch it. Tobe Hooper needs to just stop trying and give it up. His best years are past and everything he puts out is shit or borderline shit. Sorry Tobe.
grain of sand #2: grain of sand - added 06/22/2007, 04:06 PM
wow, this movie was horrible, after the first hour and 18 min. I was bored to tears, and everything after that point was followed by horrible effects, and an ending that left me feeling like I should just go to sleep and never think about this movie again
Ginose #3: Ginose - added 07/30/2007, 04:26 PM
If you want to get technical, Cryptorchild, if what you say is true, Hooper never had any 'best years'. I, however, will argue this with an intensity. Hooper's films are, for the most part, shit. However he has had some excellent movies (and, yes, I'm giving "Poltergeist" to Hooper, not out of sympathy, but because it honestly felt like one of his movies) that have really broken asses and showed why he is depicted as a master. This was not one of them.
I, more or less, agree with the review. This movie was plot driven and, visually, wasn't a terror to look at. The lack of budget was god-awfully obvious and some part felt rather silly to watch and not laugh at. The charecters were enjoyable, the zombie effects were of a very decent calliber and, as a whole, this movie was actually pretty creepy. That accounts for big point s in the horror world, as a far as I'm concerned. If a movie can creep me out, then it has done its job. 6.5/10
Tristan #4: Tristan - added 07/30/2007, 04:49 PM
Just Poltergeist? What about TCM?
Ginose #5: Ginose - added 07/30/2007, 06:53 PM
"TCM" is a given, I beleive it falls in with "some excellent movies". I'm just irritated that people like to attribute "Poltergeist" as being a Speilberg movie. He didn't direct it. Hooper directed it. He CAN make good movies. Stop whining people.
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