ARC, Artists Releasing Corporation, stands behind yet another film from the early '80's as a distribution company. These were the same guys responsible for releasing 1981's Incubus followed up by another Slasher in 1982 entitled Pieces (aka Mil gritos tiene la noche). This title falls in line with the familiar Slasher recipe, one of which you've seen quite often.
The story opens with two friends, Greg and Josh, that travel to the local mortuary; a point of employment before Josh was unexpectedly fired. While breaking and entering, the two men notice a strange ritual taking place in the lower levels of the establishment. The two are eventually separated long enough for Josh to be brutally murdered by the hands of a black-hooded fiend who dons white facial powder and black makeup. Greg quickly escapes and notices his van, which is parked outside, drive off; causing him to believe that Josh left without him. He manages to escape with the help of his girlfriend, Christie Parson, who is still mourning the supposed accidental death of her father. The young couple attempt to fit the pieces of the puzzle together by inspecting overlooked details. Periodically they are met by the mortuary owner's son, Paul Andrews (a 28-year-old Bill Paxton). Paul has an obvious crush on Christie but due to his awkward disposition and banal persona he is denied outright. With various clues to throw you off the beaten path you are left to decide the identity of the killer along with his modus operandi.
In my opinion, there are two different types of Slasher films. The first and most common would be the "whodunit" film where the murderer plays a role in the group that's methodically killed during the course of the story. Usually the audience is led down false channels to divert their attention of who the killer really is. The motive is usually jealousy or rejection but almost always caused by psychotic tendencies. The second type of Slasher film involves more of a rudimentary approach; a crazed, anonymous individual is on the loose, savagely butchering the "fish in the barrel" as it were, until finally a plot detail is uncovered and some connection can be drawn. Of all the Slasher films I've seen (I've seen over 25 from the 1980's alone), these formulas, sometimes even a combination of the two, are almost always represented in some way or another. Mortuary adheres to the first equation I mentioned: a group of actors are introduced, certain characters show up at convenient times, and the true villain is revealed.
One of the biggest problems with Mortuary is that it starts off well enough by building a dash of suspense and intrigue; a well done approach and clever contrivance that'll serve as a platform for merriment rather than sensory detainment. Okay...so why is this a problem? Well, it's not long before the film starts loosing momentum and the competent devices aforementioned start abandoning ship faster than the crew of a sinking vessel. This occurs instantly when Mortuary decides to take it upon itself to reveal the killer halfway through the story, ruining the shocking outcome you were hoping for.
As the sub-title of my review indicates, Mortuary attempts to seduce you with its impressive-looking box art but unfortunately the story doesn't play up to what you'd expect. In fact, you'd be doing yourself a great service if you choose not to even acknowledge the artwork and that's a sad state of affairs coming from me. Unfortunately, you're here on IMDb and undoubtedly examined it anyway, thus rendering my warning useless and all for naught. The presentation and graphical layout of a film's box art is essential to all movie-goers; the experience is not exclusive to fans of the horror genre. I believe that since this genre can be credited with visual expressiveness more than 50% of the time the accurate depiction of the film via artwork is a crucial step in forming our first impression. Shame on you Mortuary! Your adept use of artistry on the front cover holds dominion over our judgement! How dare you!
In closing, I thought it'd be decent of me to rate Mortuary fairly. Although I chose not to discuss in explicit detail the musical score, it's wonderful and a joy to listen to. It's a prime example of what a suspenseful chiller should employ to elevate or enhance the apprehensive sequences that follow. The acting just simply "gets the job done" along with an above-average lighting approach that heavily compliments a rich set construction. If the portions discussed precendently chose to pan out differently I may have loved this film - sadly, it's quite content on subsisting in the mid-ranged array of films that comprise my vault of horror.