Bill Paxton’s Screen Debut

Bill Paxton’s mostly forgettable film debut in Mortuary, as a demented son working at his father’s funeral home, doesn’t hint at his long, productive career ahead in Hollywood. First released on VHS from Vestron Video in 1983, Mortuary is a lurid slasher-wannabe that doesn’t quite know where it’s going. The horror movie is far more interesting for fans of its leading actresses, Mary McDonough (The Waltons) and Lynda Day George (Television’s Mission Impossible).

Christie (Mary McDonough) believes someone has murdered her father and no one believes her, including Christie’s own mother played by Lynda Day George. Christie’s boyfriend Greg (the bland David Wallace) accidentally stumbles upon a secret séance held by the local mortuary owner, Hank Andrews (Christopher George). After Greg’s friend is killed, the tangled plot has Greg and Christie investigating the connection between the suspicious Hank and her mother. A hooded killer begins terrorizing the couple in classic slasher style, shamelessly copying Halloween’s approach without the same level of execution.

Mortuary is a second or even third-tier horror thriller from the 80s

Hank’s weird son Paul (Bill Paxton) is introduced as an off-putting creep. He obviously has a thing for the attractive Christie. Working as an embalmer for his father, predictable plot developments kill off any possible suspense or mystery. A better movie would have been skillfully built Paul up as a potential suspect. Paxton’s off-kilter portrayal lacks the charm and command he’d eventually develop over his long movie career.

Mortuary’s disjointed storytelling results in almost two different movies smashed together – a conventional slasher with poor death scenes and meandering psycho-sexual thriller. Despite the issues mentioned and poor special effects, Mortuary isn’t totally worthless. The low-budget genre thriller has an engaging cast led by Mary McDonough carrying most of the weight.

Shedding her clean-cut image from television, the Waltons’ actress is a beguiling damsel in distress that tackles her racier scenes with unabashed enthusiasm. Lynda Day George may be too classy for this tacky horror movie – Mortuary was her final film role. The last act is a gonzo affair with disturbing gore. It tries putting all the loose strands together in a messy but satisfying conclusion. Mortuary is a second or even third-tier horror thriller from the 80s, heavily influenced by Halloween and other vastly better movies.

Video

MVD reissues the same so-so film scan used for Scorpion Releasing’s earlier Blu-ray edition. What’s new here is a strong AVC encode. The main feature runs 93 minutes on a BD-25. Mortuary’s 1.78:1 presentation is largely film-like with some debris. The film elements are in decent condition, though peppered with minor specks in select scenes. A perky contrast and nice colors are the transfer’s best advantages in what is otherwise an underwhelming image harvest.

A time capsule of its era from the b-movie genre scene, Mortuary’s cinematography reflects a cheap slap-dash horror movie shot with a few exposure issues and occasionally crushed black levels. Exteriors are generally fine with nice clarity and brighter colors. The depth and dimensionality are fairly dull coming from a lackluster film scan now almost a decade old. Definition is solid but somewhat soft. It’s diminished a great deal in darker interiors. Fine detail in facial close-ups highlight the movie’s hokey make-up efforts.

This is likely the best Mortuary will ever look on Blu-ray unless the movie’s owners strike a new 4K scan. It’s not a perfect videophile experience but generally organic and faithful. The unrestored elements are in serviceable condition with a few rougher spots.

Audio

Like the film transfer, Mortuary’s mildly dated audio is serviceable but limited. The original monaural audio is heard in 2.0 PCM. Dialogue is mastered very softly with too much dynamic range, forcing listeners to push the volume up a great deal. The basic thrills and score from Cacavas sound decent, if a little thin and boxy. No major audio issues beyond the limited sound design and cheesy slasher cues.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a yellow font.

Extras

Mortuary (1983) is #28 in MVD’s Rewind Collection. This is not the first time it has hit Blu-ray – Scorpion Releasing put it out as a limited edition back in 2014. If you own that disc, there’s really nothing here warranting an expensive double-dip. MVD includes a limited edition retro slip cover on first pressings. Every copy should have the pretty neat collectible mini-poster inside the package replicating the misleading cover art.

For some strange reason, the original theatrical trailer found on Scorpion Releasing’s BD is absent. In its place is a new, re-edited trailer from license owner Multicom. MVD tosses in a few trailers for other Rewind releases.

Interview with Composer John Cacavas (15:02 in SD) – The veteran Hollywood composer discusses working on the movie and other films he composed soundtracks for, including Horror Express. It’s a fairly blunt, straightforward interview from the 2005 DVD.

Mortuary Trailer (02:30 in HD) – Multicom has apparently put together a new trailer for Mortuary.

The House On Sorority Row Trailer (03:10 in SD)

Dahmer Trailer (01:55 in HD)

Mikey Trailer (02:17 in HD)

One Dark Night Trailer (02:16 in HD)

Mortuary (2005) Trailer (02:26 in SD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Mortuary
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  • Extras
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Bill Paxton’s film debut is an uneven and wacky slasher remembered more for television actresses Mary McDonough and Lynda Day George.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 45 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: