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Morgue, The

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // September 2, 2008
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted August 24, 2008 | E-mail the Author
The Morgue:
God-aw-mighty I don't know what horror fans did to deserve Lionsgate (maybe it was embracing Chucky so whole-heartedly?) but hopefully doing penance like sitting through The Morgue will release us from the curse. But that's a double-edged sword, because although The Morgue almost delivers on its promise, (the ending has a twist that only the blind could miss, it's the ludicrous twist-on-the-twist that barely inches toward unreachable redemption) the insulting, poorly acted, horribly scripted mess is one of those movies you'll beg to be done with by the ten-minute mark. Look out, bucko, there's 70 more minutes of crap to sit through.

OK, first off, the damn place is a mausoleum, not a morgue. Might as well call your movie Terror Train and set it on a raft. Call it Waterworld and place it in the desert, why not? Call it The Graduate, and have it focus on daycare kids. A morgue is a temporary storage place for the dead, like in a hospital ... ooh, wait, am I spoiling something? This movie is set in a large building full of corpses interred in walls, behind slabs of marble. It's a mausoleum, so when the guy says "let's get out of this morgue," you want to slap him with a shovel, just like the mysterious stranger stalking everybody in his hoodie - a 21st century Old Navy version of the rogue from Scream.

He's stalking everyone, including Margo, (Lisa Crilley) the implausibly rockin' Gen-Y chick solely in charge of cleaning up the joint (reason number one to discount and despise everything you see in this movie). When she's not rocking out to her iPod and mopping indelible blood from the bathroom walls, she's helping out a stranded family or patronizing her boozing friend George (Bill Cobbs) the caretaker. Before you can say "can I get my money back?" a pair of bloodied cardboard cutouts rush through the door, fresh from a mysterious, booze-fueled car accident, and we're racing off to exactly one instance of mild frisson in the whole entire movie.

For starters, the first ten minutes are filled with multiple filming styles; color shots blend with slightly off pace black-and-white bits duplicating the action, and lots of needless time-lapse jump cuts (Ridley Scott woke up his Alien crew with this technique 30 years ago when it was cool) will sincerely try your patience. For what it's worth, totally illegible shock-edits (for a mythology-based subplot that's never utilized or justified) provide the only feeble attempts at scary material, but by this time you'll have completely given up on this implausible, irritating mess.

Don't give up, though, because healthy amounts of bad characterizations, lackluster acting and really bad dialog are yet to come. Let's look at that stranded family with their adorable 12-year-old daughter. Mom Nan (the ever lovely Heather Donahue, who will hopefully one day be able to live-down Blair Witch) is married to some idiot shlub, a dull abusive jerk the likes of which she'd never stick with. Even her daughter can't escape this movie's curse, as during her pivotal coda scene her performance is utterly screwed by a director who seemingly couldn't see half a heart if it hit him in the face. So when a presumptive corpse goes oddly missing from the room, the hubby immediately exhorts his daughter to 'stay here, where it's safe.' Dude, a corpse just went missing from that room, and you want to abandon your daughter there where it's safe? At least that's better than when the chickee who turns on the breaker rushes back into the now thankfully lit room announcing 'power's up!' Really? This and more obvious bits of dialog will keep your forehead raw and red.

So there's that one tiny minute when two of the idiots are trying to escape the extensive grounds of 'the morgue' and find - big surprise - that they can't. It provides the one and only slight thrill in an otherwise annoying and senseless movie. One in which no tension is to be found, the overarching twist is as obvious as the nose on your face, the ghostly set-up is both ludicrous and summarily ignored, performances are glaringly perfunctory, and the one tiny extra twist at the end is inconsequential and insulting. I don't want my last moments to be anything like this movie.

The DVD

Video:
Now comes the truly horrible part, needing to give due diligence to a movie as flawed as this. The Morgue is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio, enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. It looks decent, if gritty, with a fine amount of detail. Colors are stylistically washed out most of the time, with a bluish cast that can't be described as naturalistic, but should certainly be considered intentional. Let's just call it the Lionsgate Standard Horror Palette. A fair amount of print damage shows up, which is surprising for a movie barely a year old. A goodly amount of film grain gives it that edgy look.

Sound:
Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio is perfectly fine. Dialog seems mixed with the soundtrack at appropriate levels - no remote riding was necessary - and the audio range seemed relatively expansive. Expect the usual as far as creative use of sound design, with nothing terribly innovative or evocative in terms of spooky placement of sound effects or anything like that.

Extras:
Well, I feel a little bad tearing this movie apart based on the 18-minute Making Of The Morgue featurette, as mild-mannered producer and co-director Gerson Sanginitto welcomes his staff with the words 'I know we're going to make a good movie.' Famous last words, I guess. Another tip-off in this standard behind-the-scenes documentary comes when director Halder Gomes states that what attracted him to the project was that the script didn't reveal the plot 'until the very last moment.' I usually like to enjoy the plot of a movie while I'm watching it as opposed to waiting 'till the end. Plenty of true behind-the-scenes shots are mixed with interviews where actors who've 'never had experience' with this type of movie talk about 'breaking their horror cherry,' and the DP talks about working with former students and being happy to shoot 'on film.' Nice. The Morgue Trailer and other Lionsgate Previews, (don't rent any of them) along with Closed Captions and English and Spanish Subtitles round out the picture.

Final Thoughts:
With due respect to the hard work of everyone involved, The Morgue stinks. The plot is both nonsensical and obvious, with a twist that walks up to you and waves howdy even as you're looking at the DVD case. Performances are generally on the 'let's get this over with' side of things, and scares are non-existent. Bad dialog piles on top of (soon abandoned) style-over-story aesthetics for a trying, difficult, and flat-out bad experience. Sorry, Heather, I'm telling your fans (the only ones who have any reason to rent this) to just Skip It.

www.kurtdahlke.com

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