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Review: Mortuary (1983)

Writer: Thomas Ellison


After her father's mysterious death, Christy (Mary McDonough) suffers from sleepwalking and night terrors. Making things worse, no one beliefs her claims of a ghoul faced killer lurking in the shadows. When she learns her mother is in a coven of witches, Christy begins to distrust everyone in her life. Is her mother trying to drive her crazy or is there a more sinister figure at work? It's up to Christy's boyfriend to save her before she ends up on the slab.

Mortuary features several staples of the early subgenre; a comic relief fat guy that isn't funny, a nerd that nobody likes, and roller disco. Surprisingly, Christy's friends never become fodder for the killer, mostly because they spend all their time at the damn disco. The killer's weapon of choice, a giant embalming needle, is a change of pace from garden tools and kitchen utensils. There is some nudity, but a very obvious body double is used in place of Mary McDonough.

Director/co-writer Howard Avedis and co-writer Marlene Schmidt manage a few surprises and jolts, but they give the killer's identity away half way through the film. Still, they have one wicked twist at the end. They give their slasher motivations other than simple revenge. The witches subplot is unnecessary and never really develops into anything of importance.

Bill Paxton plays Paul the nerd, a goofy loser one almost feels sorry for as he skips across a graveyard with a handful of roses. Christopher and Susan Day George have nothing parts, they're mostly window dressing. David Wallace, as Christy's boyfriend, is okay, but the faces he makes when his character is angry are laughable. Mary McDonough brings a wholesome, vulnerable quality to her character, but her sleepwalking scenes are a little embarrassing.

Mortuary has some clichés, but also has a few twists and surprises. There is little blood or gore, but there is one really intense murder. If you ever get to see the trailer for Mortuary, then you've hit the bonus round. Michael Berryman is shown digging a grave in a mist covered graveyard. Suddenly, a hand bursts out of the grave and drags the screaming Berryman into the earth. None of this occurs in the film and makes Mortuary look like a zombie flick.



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