Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Tobe Hooper is a curious fellow. I've always admired his worked and always tried to look beyond that first movie, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, that since then has become a curse for Hooper. He's far from a one-trick pony, with excellent stuff like The Funhouse, Poltergeist (yeah, I know some people claim Spielberg did all the directing, but you'll find many who claim Hooper did the job also), Lifeforce, TCM2, Eaten Alive and of course Salem's Lot. His TV-work and some of his less famous stuff from the eighties and nineties is good also. Seriously. Stop comparing, please. He's worth a more serious approach.
It took me four times to actually watch Mortuary. This time I managed to watch more than the first twenty minutes. It's my own fault, because I've been listening too much to the fancy schmancy bullshitters out there, people who prefer to look back into the past than analyzing the work of directors who doesn't want to repeat themselves. That's also Hoopers curse. He will be the director of TCM for his whole career and I think it's no coincidence that Mortuary has a weird, off-beat and macabre dinner-scene and odd redneck-esque characters acting strange. That's his burden and I guess it pays the bills.
While Mortuary has some serious flaws - including sloppy editing, some really awful physical and digital effects and sometimes a lack of energy from the director himself - it also have a lot of good stuff going on. The story, from writers Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch, isn't half-bad. Just a bit unfocused. It's an original twist on the boring zombie-theme with some truly original and bizarre ideas. It has a lot of black comedy - my favorite being the scene where the mother is sorting out her embalming equipment from the kitchen equipment! The dialogue is witty and mostly very fun in that quirky, strange way only characters talk in films by Hooper. The actors feels a bit awkward in the beginning, but they're soon in peace with their characters and the dialogue and in the end I would say this film has some of the more interesting people I've seen in a low budget, direct-to-video horror film that everyone hates.
Why? For example, the adult characters behave good. They don't act like assholes. The mother, played by Denise Crosby, is a good mother. She understand her son isn't a saint and gives him some freedom, but still cares about him. When she sense smoke on him she's more worried that he's in to heavier drugs and when she discover he's been out in the graveyard two in the morning she just tells him to bring a baseball bat the next time, for protection. Every adult character behaves in the total opposite way than they usually do in similar films. This is also one of the few genre productions I've seen who has a normal gay character who's treated like everyone else and behaves like everyone else.
How's the horror then? Hooper works hard with the little horror he has, but most of the power of the scares is let down by terrible make-up, lousy set-dressings and one of the worst final scenes I've seen. I can see his idea here - a reference to the almost otherworldly, unrealistic style of Eaten Alive - but that belonged in the drive-in's during the 70's, here it just feels like a bad episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. The lack of real gore and that final, nasty horror-punch he's usually so good at, makes a weak horror movie.