"BEFORE YOUR FUNERAL...
BEFORE YOU ARE BURIED...
BEFORE YOU ARE COVERED WITH
THE LAST SHOVELFUL OF DIRT...
BE SURE YOU ARE REALLY DEAD!
[MORTUARY] ... WHERE NOBODY RESTS IN PEACE"
directed by: Howard Avedis
(back of video blurb):
"When Christie Parson's father
drowns mysteriously in the family swimming pool, she begins to have terrifying
nightmares about it. She believes his death was no accident... but nobody will
listen. Not even when her nightmares fringe on reality."
starring: Lynda Day George, Christopher George, Mary McDonough, David Wallace, Bill Paxton
(back of video blurb):
"When Christie Parson's father drowns mysteriously in the family swimming pool, she begins to have terrifying nightmares about it. She believes his death was no accident... but nobody will listen. Not even when her nightmares fringe on reality."
Mary McDonough confronts mortal danger with disco
You want cheese? I got cheese. I've got a whole load of cheese. It's cleverly disguised as a hunk of black plastic - but it's King cheese, and no mistake. What can I saw after seeing this movie - I'm almost speechless - but, seeing as that's never stopped me before
If you know your early 80's teen slashers (and chances are, if you're reading this you do) you'll know that Melissa Sue Anderson challenged her image as an All American frontier girl when she signed on for HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981). Who would have thought the girl who played Mary Ingalls in LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE would swap bonnets for shish-kebabs in a tale of teen serial slaughter? Well, Melissa Sue wasn't the only member of a sugar sweet US TV show who was keen to break the mould - someone over on Walton's Mountain wanted a piece of slasher action too. Mary Beth McDonough (Mary Beth? Melissa Sue? - I see a pattern emerging here), better known as goodly Erin Walton, shed her wholesome image in this prime time slice of cheese, as Christie Parson, the final girl in MORTUARY.
I promised you cheese - there's more to come, but first the plot. Ah yes, the plot Well, poor Christie is mourning her Father (who we saw being whacked over the head by an unidentified assailant in the beginning of the film; and who subsequently drowned in the family swimming pool). She's having a tough time coming to terms with her grief as some nut in a black shroud, wearing a white mask, keeps bothering her (sound a little familiar? When this psycho first leapt onto the screen I couldn't help mouth, "ghostface!"). Her Mother (Lynda Day George) is a little less than sympathetic:"Christie, you've been highly imaginative since your Father's death!"; to which Christie barks back: "There was somebody out there. I saw him! Somebody in a black cape trying to stab me!". Things aren't helped by the fact that she's also prone to sleep-walking (a pretty precarious affliction in a slasher movie I'm sure you'll agree), taking to wandering around the garden in her nightie in the dead of night What else? Did I mention that she thinks her Mother is out to drive her mad? Oh, and she takes on the roll of Nancy Drew to her blonde jock boyfriend, Greg's Hardy Boy to look for his lost friend - who vanished (unbeknowst to them impaled on an embalming pipe) whilst they borrowed a tyre (?) from a mortuary and stumbled upon what looked like a cross between a Morris Dance and a Black Mass. So, they set about to find out what's happened to him and, naturally enough, the first place they check is the roller-disco Now, there's a connection there, which I'll get to in a minute, but what good (or should that be bad?) early 80's slasher flick would be complete without some roller skating action? And MORTUARY certainly doesn't skimp on the roller boogie!
Now, this flick, like many other
slasher movies from this time has the debut of a, now established star. Not
content with bagging a Walton, the director also had an eye for new, er
Here being a very fresh faced Bill Paxton
(who also starred in fellow slasher NIGHTMARE MAKER from the same year -
although I don't actually recall him in that, somewhat better movie, as well as TV slasher DEADLY LESSONS). A good
few years before he became a James Cameron staple, in films like ALIENS
(1986) and THE TERMINATOR (1984) Paxton here plays a geeky high school student
called Paul - who has a crush on Christie and also happens to help out at his
Now, I've been privy to some outstanding bits of bad cinema
in my time, but Paxton's turn in the graveyard scene takes some beating. It's
rumoured that Joan Crawford made some 'stag' movies back before she became famous
and spent the best part of her career tracking them down and paying vast sums
of money to have them destroyed - I well imagine Paxton would view his turn here
in the same light (but I secretly hope he can laugh about now).
Picture the scene: Greg and Christie are at the graveyard
during the day-time (for no good reason that I can recall), where they bump
into Paxton's character who's holding a bunch of flowers, which turn out to
be for his Mother's grave. After chatting, Paxton turns and skips off (yeah,
you read that right), weaving through the gravestones like Pee-Wee Herman tra-la-la'ing
through a field of tulips!
It's moments like that that make watching some
of these movies worthwhile. Time stands still in honour of a cheese great moment.
Not content to leave it there, Greg and Christie look on (with remarkably straight
faces) and mouth this choice dialogue: "He's got a little weird since his
Mother committed suicide
I'd be weird too if I had Hank Andrews for a Father
and, on top of that, when I was a kid, locking me up with dead bodies!"
Ah yes, Hank Andrews. This is where it all starts to make some kind of sense. Hank Andrews is played by Christopher George - who we saw at the beginning of the film overseeing that occult ceremony (a fact he denies with another snippet of choice dialogue when Greg reports him to the cops, "I've never had a seance with a bunch of women!".) He also runs the mortuary of the title- where his river-dancing son helps out. ("I could run things smoother if people died between 9 to 5" - is another of his one-liners) Now, George was somewhat prolific in 1981 when it came to cheesy slasher movies - in-fact he's the common thread in three of the year's choicest slices - PIECES, GRADUATION DAY and this movie. Quite why he had a run of them is probably a secret he took to his grave when he passed away in 1983 - a date which pretty much poo-poos the '1984' tag usually given to MORTUARY (it's definitely '81 fashion - God knows I've seen enough of these things to know - and there wasn't a ra-ra skirt or snood in sight!). George was joined by his wife, Lynda Day, here (and in PIECES). But, again, that's not the only connection between these films. I said I'd get back to the roller-skating and back we go. For some strange reason all three films feature that most suicidal of pass-times - the already mentioned roller-disco here; the roller-prom in GRADUATION DAY; and the roller-skating (or was it skateboarding? She was on wheels anyhow ), disco-bunny who smashed through that plate of glass in PIECES. You'd have thought that these three flicks would have all been directed by the same person but apparently not Finally, in way of comparison, I guess all three are as cheerfully cheesy as each other - they all have those 'to-cherish' dairy moments. However, you can't really beat PIECES (when it's uncut) for the gore, followed by the hokey red stuff in GRADUATION DAY. MORTUARY, however, is definitely the driest of the three - although the second murder is fairly juicy.
Now, I've almost forgotten Christie - and McDonough is a million miles away from Waltons' Mountain. What would Grandma Walton make of the end of the movie? Now, I wouldn't dream of spoiling it for you (and it really isn't graphically shown), but I reckon you can guess where a film about a mortuary and a killer who dresses up bodies of women in wedding dresses is going. And go there it does - in an ending although reminiscent of HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (yet another connection), actually manages to out cheese it - and then some. MORTUARY, once seen never forgotten.
The only thing that bothers me is
the fact that the film's video cover makes it look like some kind of zombie
movie - it's not, MORTUARY is 100% slasher trash, which is charmingly
bad enough to earn it'self an honoury 2 stars and the accolade of King Cheese
(what more could you ask for?). ... Now, let's just rewind that graveyard sequence
one more time
BODYCOUNT 5 female:1 / male:4
1) Male hit on the head with baseball bat and falls in pool
2) Male stabbed and impaled on embalming pipe
3) Female killed with embalming pipe
4) Male impaled with embalming pipe
5) Male hacked in back with axe