Once there was a time when hanging out at the roller rink wasn’t just a thing, but the thing. That time was the time of Mortuary, one of the more interesting slashers, to be honest, despite said skating. Mind you, “interesting” does not necessarily equal “better.” I’d say the forgotten film deserves a second look, if only it had been fortunate enough to earn a initial one.
High school good(-ish) girl Christie (Mary Beth McDonough, then freed from a decade of servitude as one of a kajillion siblings on TV’s The Waltons) is still mourning the death of her father, although she does not know his poolside passing was flat-out murder. We do, because we see it happen in the prologue — in slow-mo, no less! Girl’s got her hunches, but she’s too busy skating and seeking solace in the warm embrace of her admirably patient (but understandably blue-balled) boyfriend, Greg (David Wallace, Humongous).
Greg undergoes a tragedy of his own when his best bud, Josh (Denis Mandel, 1990’s Brush with Death), disappears after the two boys witness a cult ritual at the local mortuary: black-robed babes, burning candles, Pieces’ Christopher George — all the makings of a satanic panic! Perhaps those events have something to do with the mysterious cloaked figure stalking Christine, hmmmm?
If one were to judge Mortuary by ending alone, the argument for “another movie” could be made in concrete. It defies not just the film’s own rules, but those of the natural world, like Avedis and co-writer/wife Marlene Schmidt (They’re Playing with Fire) suddenly decided to shift planes of existence and told no one. Whereas this head-scratcher of an axis spin would kill lesser horror entries — hell, even greater ones — it actually sticks a pin on the pro side.
By then, if not well before, viewers will have forgotten about the plot, about the murder, about Josh’s vanishing act, about Lynda Day George’s bosoms struggling against the silky fabric of her nightgown, and yes, even about Christie, our ostensible Final Girl. Not even her sex scene (in which McDonough was body-doubled) stood a chance against the power of the Pax and the preposterous. The two constitute a formidable team. —Rod Lott