‘Before you are buried… be sure you are really dead!’
Mortuary is a 1981 American slasher horror feature film directed by Howard Avedis (They’re Playing with Fire; The Fifth Floor) from a screenplay co-written with his wife Marlene Schmidt (who co-produced and appears in a small role). The other co-producer was Edward L. Montoro (The Dark; Day of the Animals; Grizzly).
The film features a hooded face-painted killer who stabs or impales his victims with/on an embalming trocar. It was released theatrically on September 9, 1983 and took $4.3 million. It was also released internationally as Embalmed and Hall of Death.
Cinematographer Gary Graver worked for Al Adamson and Fred Olen Ray and also on many genre movies such as Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973), The Toolbox Murders (1978) and The Attic (1980). He directed Moon in Scorpio (1987).
It should not be confused with the 2005 film Mortuary, directed by Tobe Hooper.
The movie stars Mary Beth McDonough, David Wysocki [as David Wallace], Bill Paxton (The Vagrant; Aliens; Near Dark), Lynda Day George (Pieces; Ants!; Day of the Animals), and Christopher George (Pieces; City of the Living Dead; Graduation Day).
Horror icon Michael Berryman appears in footage shot for the misleading US trailer as a gravedigger but is not the film itself.
Christie Parson (Mary McDonaugh) is mourning the death of her father (Danny Rogers) by drowning. Her mother has convinced herself it was a tragic accident, but Christie is sure it was murder.
Christie suffers from nightmares in which a hooded figure, clutching an embalming trocar, pursues her. She turns detective, aided by her boyfriend (David Wallace) to find out the truth. Her sleuthing draws her to a local mortuary, whose owner, Hank Andrews (Christopher George), together with his secretly demented offspring, Paul (Bill Paxton), is guarding an odious secret…
“While nothing special, Mortuary basically gets the slasher job done with a minor mystery, chase scenes, a little nudity, some violent / gruesome moments and a twist ending. The cast is pretty appealing and the acting is a notch above average.” The Bloody Pit of Horror
“Fairly decent slasher flick with several jolts of suspense and gruesome deaths. Not a lot of blood and gore, but plenty of breasts both living and cadaver to enjoy. Fans of early 80’s slasher flicks should give this one a try.” Melon Farmers
“If you’ve got an 80s fetish, you’ll find more things between the feathered hair and the roller skating rinks, and the film looks and sounds very much like any other early 80s slasher movie, right down to the cornball dialogue and one hell of a nonsensical final shot. Unfortunately, it’s just not a very good one…” Oh, the Horror!
“It’s actually a fairly slow-moving slasher film and neither Greg nor Christie are particularly interesting or likable. Still, the film features Bill Paxton skipping in a cemetery and that’s worth something.” Through the Shattered Lens
“Mortuary is an amusing movie with a lot going for it. It slows down about halfway in and leaves a few loose ends, but the good heavily outweighs the bad in this fun flick. I would recommend watching this if nothing else for the great acting of Christopher George and Bill Paxton.” Scared Stiff Reviews
“Bill Paxton is the best character in this …the lack of a decent story in Mortuary fails to hold viewer interest. Not as bad as it could be, but not recommended either.” Jim Harper, Legacy of Blood: A Comprehensive Guide to Slasher Movies
“A wretched excuse for a movie…” John Stanley, Creature Features
“A low-budget chiller with a few good moments.” John Elliot, Elliot’s Guide to Films on Video
Following an initial uncut release on video via Hokushin, the film was passed ’18’ in 1986 as Embalmed for a Mighty Fair VHS re-release, but only after a swingeing 2m 13s of BBFC category cuts for:
- A stabbing with a surgical knife
- A murder with an axe in the back
- An embalming scene with topless nudity
In the US, the film was released on DVD on May 25, 2012, transferred with a 16×9 (1.78:1) high definition master from the original internegative. Scorpio Releasing in conjunction with Camelot Entertainment released the DVD with special features: Play with or without the “Nightmare Theater” experience, interview with composer John Cacavas and the original trailer.
On October 7, 2014, Scorpion Releasing released the film on Blu-ray a in a limited edition of just 1,200 copies.
Los Angeles, Malibu and Northridge, California
Image credits: Sangue doce