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A young woman named Margo (Lisa Crilley) is the happy-go-lucky janitor in a big, creepy mausoleum. She's a bouncy-peppy type who bops around with her earbuds plugged in while mopping the floors and scrubbing the bloodstains off the bathroom wall where a previous mortician recently slashed his own throat. Lately, though, she keeps having these unsettling little flashes of alternate reality, and for some reason the night watchman, George (the venerable Bill Cobbs), acts like she isn't there.
Five minutes into THE MORGUE (2008) and we're already starting to see the surprise ending coming from a mile away. But there's more--a dysfunctional family, including a belligerent dad, a mousy mom (yes, that Heather Donahue), and an owlish little girl, show up because their SUV has run out of gas, and, of course, when you run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, the first thing you do is head straight for the nearest mausoleum. Minutes later, two more guys come staggering in covered with blood after crawling out of a car wreck. And with our cast of characters thus established, we now get to see them all trying desperately to contact the outside world and escape from the mazelike mausoleum while some dark figure in a hoodie is chasing them all around with a shovel. Oh yeah, and whenever one of them tries to talk to the night watchman, George, he acts like they aren't there.
Pretty scary stuff, right? Ehh...
THE MORGUE tries awful hard to be scary, but it's mainly just confusing and somewhat tedious. We see endless scenes of our heroes sneaking out of their safe haven, running up and down the dark halls from the shovel-wielding hoodie guy while trying to get out of the building, and then scrambling back to home base and locking the door. When Bad Dad and Car Wreck Dude attempt an excursion into town, they keep coming right back to the mausoleum. Weak "shock cuts" and other earnest but unsuccessful attempts to frighten us abound. The characters' actions often defy any conceivable logic. And when the twist ending finally comes, it's telegraphed so far in advance that the whole movie is basically one long twist ending.
I kinda got an 80s vibe from THE MORGUE, which made me think about how much better even the cheaper flicks seemed back then compared to this. Some parts also have a faint hint of Rod Serling's "Night Gallery" with a dash of PHANTASM thrown in. It's nice to see somebody trying to do something different by playing around with the supernatural and slasher genres, but it never really comes off like the filmmakers must've imagined. The constantly blaring music doesn't help, either. The lead actors do their best to sell it, with Lisa Crilley (ANNAPOLIS) giving it her all and BLAIR WITCH PROJECT's Heather Donahue adding a nostalgic touch.
Ultimately, though, the ending that THE MORGUE has been so frantically building up to for its entire running time comes as more of a foregone conclusion than a surprise. There are a few fill-in-the-blanks shots to explain some of the loose ends, but that's about it. And without the catharsis of a satisfying twist, it's a real downer. The thing that makes the "Jordy Verrill" segment of CREEPSHOW stick out like a sore thumb is that not only does the ending lack irony, but Jordy doesn't deserve his awful fate, which is at odds with most EC horror stories. The same applies to THE MORGUE, which left me wondering what the point of it all was.
Added: Friday, September 26, 2008
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