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First look: Follow Clancy Brown to the embalming room in Shudder's anthology 'The Mortuary Collection'

By Jeff Spry
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Fan favorite actor Clancy Brown has inhabited the roles of many iconic characters, including the fearsome immortal named The Kurgan in 1986's Highlander, sadistic prison guard Byron Hadley of The Shawshank Redemption, gung-ho bug-killer Sergeant Zim in Starship Troopers, and Brother Justin Crowe in HBO's Carnivale. With his baritone voice and intimidating charisma, Clancy is also well-known for voicing the irascible Mr. Krabs on SpongeBob SquarePants, a gig he's held since 1999.

Now Brown is back starring in The Mortuary Collection, a delightfully demented anthology horror film screening on AMC's Shudder streaming platform beginning on Oct. 15. Directed by rising star Ryan Spindell (The Babysitter Murders) in his debut feature film, it's an impressive return to the old-fashioned thrills and chills perpetrated by classic fright fare like Tales from the Crypt and Creepshow — and SYFY WIRE is serving up a pre-Halloween treat in the form of an exclusive clip and chat with Brown and Spindell.

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Here Brown plays a macabre mortician named Montgomery Dark, who presides over the decrepit funeral parlor of Raven's End, which houses a library of twisted tales detailing the many mysterious deaths of its deceased customers.

When a mysterious young drifter played by Caitlin Fisher (Teen Wolf) arrives to apply for a job and meets its morbid proprietor, she becomes entwined in a series of five shocking stories that chronicle the strange history of the town and its more unfortunate residents. 

Winner of the Gold Audience Award for Feature Film @ Fantasia 2020 and an instant Halloween gem, The Mortuary Collection is a loving homage to vintage anthology films of the '70s and '80s, inspired by EC horror comics, Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, and the transformative force of storytelling.

Check out this exclusive clip with Montgomery Dark taking his brave new protege on a tour of the embalming room!

The film also stars Jacob Elordi (Euphoria), Barak Hardley (SPELL), Sarah Hey (BRAID) and Christine Kilmer. Produced by Spindell, Allison Friedman, and T. Justin Ross, The Mortuary Collection boasts eye-popping practical effects from Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis' Academy Award-winning Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc., the SFX firm behind TremorsAlien 3, Starship Troopers, Godzilla, and dozens more.

In crafting this indie project, Spindell felt like short form horror had gone away and audiences had no place to see it, especially on the big screen.

"So I sat down and wrote this movie that everyone was telling me not to write, which are these short stories that had been kicking around in my brain," he tells SYFY WIRE. "Even once we had the little bit of financing, there were line producers who refused to take the job because they thought the movie couldn’t be made for less than four times what we had. And over the course of two years we started making shorts and slowly pieced this movie together.

"Clancy was right there at the top of my casting list, but I didn’t think he’d ever read it. So when I got a call that said Clancy wanted to meet to talk about it, I was floored. Then I had to sit down with one of my heroes and pretend I wasn’t freaking out."

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Brown was instantly attracted by the clever screenplay and Spindell's inventive short, The Babysitter Murders.

"Every story was this mix of horror and humor and had a moral to it," Brown tells SYFY WIRE. "It was an easy-to-wrap-around character and I saw how he integrated his The Babysitter Murders short into the ultimate story of Monty and Sam. It's an anthology but it’s also a full movie. Everything points to the end.  

"So I knew I was dealing with a talented writer and then I watched his short, and was thoroughly captivated. I thought I better meet this guy and he told me the film was impossible to make but that he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Everybody brought their A-game and gave it their best effort and we all crossed our fingers for this labor of love. Excellent execution across the board. It kind of blows my mind how good it looks and how well it’s cut together and the music and everything." 

Director George Romero and Stephen King's Creepshow was one of the director's guiding lights in making this atmospheric horror feature.

"As a child I wouldn’t watch horror, but I would watch Creepshow because it always opened with that Saturday morning-style cartoon animation," Spindell admits. "It always tricked me into thinking it was a kids movie every single time. It wasn’t until I was knee-deep into horror that I realized it was a very adult movie. That film was my training wheels I needed to find my way to horror. When I was creating The Mortuary Collection, I wanted to try and encapsulate the lightheartedness, the fun, and the whimsy Creepshow made me feel as a kid and let the tone slowly evolve as the movie evolves."  

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In crafting the character of Montgomery Dark, Brown had no burning desire to animate some imaginary character from his psyche.

"Once they put the makeup on me and put the clothes on, it was pretty clear what I was going to do," Brown recalls. "I think the main thing Ryan said was that he doesn’t have an accent. [Laughs.]. There’s no English accent. You can’t go full Vincent Price or full Christopher Lee. Just be old creepy Clancy.

"It was always a treat every day to walk into those sets. But it was long days and it was hard work in makeup and everybody was great, so it was easier to do, but there were some days. And Caitlin Fisher was with the show from the very start and she was the glue that held this thing together. I think she’s wonderful."

To add to the creative elements, Spindell convinced the legendary Amalgamated Dynamics to create the film's convincing practical effects by using an impassioned email and a little bit of luck.

"At one point during the tentacle monster segment and I was working directly with Alec Gillis," he notes. "I was freaking out because if the monster looks hokey, the whole thing falls apart. So he personally came up with the designs and animated them on set. It was insane."

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Shooting in Astoria, Oregon, where classic movies like Short Circuit, The Goonies, and Kindergarten Cop were made, added to the historic charm of The Mortuary Collection.

"It felt like living in a horror movie for two months," Spindell recalls. "I kind of rewrote the whole movie to fit the Astoria aesthetic. People in the town were so good to us. There are books in the background of Montgomery’s office that are literally the history of Astoria that we got from the basement of the library. Antique dealers, vintage cars, the whole town came together to support the movie and that’s something you don’t get in Los Angeles. It was such an exciting experience for filmmakers. That’s the kind of thing we thrive on."

The Mortuary Collection airs on Shudder starting on Oct. 15.