Recently, I got the chance to speak with Ryan Spindell, director of the newly released The Mortuary Collection. It’s a wonderful film, and you can check out our review here. If you’ve clicked this link you probably want to read the interview, so without further ado…
Ryan Spindell: Hey man. How’s it going?
PopHorror: Good, good!
Ryan Spindell: Good, thanks for chatting with me!
PopHorror: Yeah, no problem! Thank you for this interview! Watched the movie last night! I’ll be totally honest… I didn’t watch sooner because I was kind of in a burnout with anthology films for awhile there, but I ended up having a blast with it!
Ryan Spindell: Aw, thank you so much. I feel you. I’ve been there. You can really go down the doldrums if you get on Amazon Prime.
PopHorror: Oof, tell me about it… That actually segues perfectly into my next question. How would you say The Mortuary Collection stands out in a fairly saturated market—of horror anthologies in particular—at the moment?
Ryan Spindell: Hm… How it stands out. I’m a huge fan of the anthology format. I came to it through Creepshow, like a lot of people my age did. And Twilight Zone, Twilight Zone: The Movie, and Tales from the Crypt, and then I found a renewed interest in it through Amicus Films from the 1970s. Are you familiar with Amicus Films?
PopHorror: I am! And I want to say it’s obvious. Your love of them is very much on display with the movie.
Ryan Spindell: (laughs) Awesome, awesome. Well, yeah, while watching those films and seeing somebody taking a serious, more British approach, but also, having a single creator behind it all and trying to make a film that sort of celebrates short form horror… it all feels a part of something greater. It was 2012 when I wrote this script, so, at the time, I feel most people didn’t really have an idea what an anthology film was, especially non-horror fans. I think I initially wrote it as an exercise. What’s the movie I want to see the most? And what are the sins that other anthology movies have committed that I can try to do differently? The biggest sin that I can think of is that they have one great segment and a bunch of filler segments, so more of a uniform level of quality amongst the stories was very important. Can I tell 4 or 5 stories that all work, at least for me?
And then the second biggest part, and the trickiest part, was, “How do you do a great wraparound? How do you do something that’s not a bookend or fade-to-black or a title card? But that springboards off the stories themselves, and the stories are pushing the wraparound. So we’re interested in the stories we’re seeing, but we’re also interested in getting back to the Narrators, to the Chorus, to see how that’s evolving. It was a challenge to figure that out—the starts and the stops—and keeping the characters and their worlds consistent in an anthology movie.
PopHorror: Well, I definitely want to say that you nailed the landing. I feel your criticisms, especially with most anthologies having one or two good ones and then you let your mind zone out until you get to the wraparound. But I actually ended up enjoying and being engrossed in each and every one of the shorts in your film.
Ryan Spindell: Oh, thank you so much. I remember actually, a big challenge was to keep it moving. You know how you get to the end of a story and you just feel that STOP. Reset. New world. New place. We put a lot of work propelling Sarah and Montgomery [the protagonists] forward as they go deeper and deeper into the mortuary, but also simple, in camera transitions that don’t let us feel the start and stop so much, that leads to the worlds just blending in and out of each other. And some of that stuff is some of what I’m most proud of I think. My creative team really came to play, which was amazing!
PopHorror: Yeah, speaking of that, I noticed a series of homages to decades of horror film. The first story had a Hitchcock/50s vibe, 60s, 70s, then Sam’s story definitely had the background movie being from the 80s, down to one explicit shot referencing Scream… Can you talk about that stylistic choice?
Ryan Spindell: So, the choice was to always embody a timelessness. I equate anthology films to sitting around the campfire telling stories, and what I think is really beautiful about that form of storytelling is that those stories aren’t really set in one time or place, they just are. They’re eternal. So from the very beginning, the design of this was definitely pushed towards a horror fantasy vibe to let people know the world they’re in and how it works. But also to create a sense of timelessness. So this sense of evolution you found may not have been wholly intentional. It’s more of the subgenre of each short that’s dictating that feeling. The first one has that Twilight Zone, almost silent film—a girl in a bathroom interacting with something from the great beyond—then it evolves into the pregnancy one, which has more fun, humor and some gross out gags, and then the morality of the stories seems to get more grey as you push forward. That’s an interesting byproduct, seeing that theory that they’re all set in different eras, and I can see how that happens, but the intention is that you shouldn’t know, basically.
PopHorror: Clancy Brown was not someone I was expecting to see hosting a horror anthology. What made you decide to cast him as Mortimer Dark?
Ryan Spindell: Oh man, just being such a huge fan of him for as long as I can remember. He was just an easy person to say, “Yes,” to when his name popped up on a potentials list. I’m obsessed with character actors. I think they’re some of the most talented people working in the industry, and they’re off to the sidelines, playing lesser characters in films, but they’re always bringing the color and the POP.
PopHorror: And Brown is just so good at that. From Highlander to Lex Luthor to Mr. Krabs… he just brings it every time.
Ryan Spindell: Oh, he’s amazing! And what’s amazing about working with him on a personal level is that there’s just no pretention at all with him. The joke that I have is that he doesn’t feel like an actor. He feels like he should be, like, making furniture in Wyoming on a ranch. He doesn’t show up with any pretention. He doesn’t have any particular things he needs for his craft. He just sort of embodies the characters and has fun with it. That’s so special and so important for this project, which has got to be one of the smallest productions he’s worked on. I was so nervous he was gonna show up and see he doesn’t have a trailer or any of the niceties that he’s probably used to, but instead, he really embraced it. He ended up being one of the most important people on set for morale.
PopHorror: Oh, that’s such a pleasure to hear.
Ryan Spindell: Yeah, he’s wonderful. Cast him in anything. I’m putting the word out, get him while you can! (laughs)
PopHorror: Are there any fun stories from the set you’d like to share?
Ryan Spindell: Yeah, I actually have one that’s really cool that involves Clancy, actually! We were actually in this town called Astoria, Oregon, a little foggy town on the coast where they shot all the exterior shots for The Goonies, so it really had that Raven’s End vibe. But it’s a tiny town, and at one point in time, a local guy who owns a comic book store had found out Clancy was there. He showed up on set and found Clancy and was telling him how he had a really hard upbringing, and Highlander was what brought him through it, so to speak, as a super fan. The guy was getting really emotional. I was a little worried Clancy may be being assaulted, like a random person just showed up on set, and instead Clancy was like (switches to a deeper yet jovial voice for a moment), “Well, come on! I’ll give you a tour of the set!” So Clancy put his arm around him, led him through the whole set for like an hour, and I smiled and was like, “We chose the right guy.”
PopHorror: Wow, that’s beautiful, I actually don’t know what to say in response… For our final question, what’s your favorite segment from another horror anthology?
Ryan Spindell: Oh, that’s an easy one for me. I’m gonna have to go with “The Raft” from Creepshow 2. That one scared me so good as a kid. Me and my siblings would swim out to the raft and stay there until dark because we were all too scared to jump in and swim back.
Thank you so much for speaking with us, Ryan, I enjoyed speaking with you and viewing the film, and can’t wait to see whatever you bring us next! The Mortuary Collection is currently available on VOD, Digital, Blu-ray, and DVD!