The Morgue (2008)
Directed by Halder Gomes and Gerson Sanginitto
Written by Najla Ann Al-Doori
Starring Lisa Crilley, Heather Donahue, Chris Devlin, Bill Cobbs, Taylor Lipman
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Release date: September 2, 2008
Life moves at a pretty repetitive rate for Margo, and that is just how she likes it. Every night, she rides her bike over to the local morgue and mausoleum to vacuum the rugs, give the night watchman his liquor and try once again to get that pesky stain off the bathroom floor that is said to be blood from one of morticians when they committed suicide. But tonight, her peaceful routine is interrupted when a dysfunctional family comes in looking for gas and to use her bathroom. Margo does her best to help them, but when a pair of men burst into the morgue badly injured, Margo knows that something is very wrong.
Things go from bad to worse for the group when they discover that not only are the phones dead, but that there seems to be something stalking and hunting them in the shadows. Margo tries to take the lead of the perplexed and confused, but whatever it is in the darkness seems to know their every move before they make it. With hours to go till the sun rises, will any of them live to see the day?
No matter how exciting this synopsis may sound, rest assured in knowing that The Morgue may just be the most boring haunted horror film of the year. Even at just under ninety minutes, and with a denouement that begins a full fifteen minutes before the titles role, waiting for this movie to finally fade to black is a chore. While it may have some reaching for the remote to fast forward to something that may be interesting, the majority of those who self-inflict this movie on themselves will be fighting just to keep their eyelids open.
Najla Ann Al-Doori is a short story writer who makes her screenwriting debut here, and if she has any sympathy for the horror community, she will stay far away from cinema here after. Al-Doori’s story is completely uninspired, with wafer-thin characters and a plot that can be guessed by basically anyone within the first ten minutes. And this does not even take into consideration of the marketing, but perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
What little potential there is for some suspense and maybe one or two good scares is completely eviscerated by co-directors Halder Gomes and Gerson Sanginitto who take a stab at horror after each directing a few low budget action movies. Gomes and Sanginitto test their audience’s patience early on by going completely overboard with jump cuts and double exposures as if to warn us that there is something mysterious about this particular morgue, but only manages to irritate the eyes. If this is what they feel passes as spooky foreshadowing, then they need to hit the video store and do some more research.
Meanwhile, things aren’t looking to good for the cast either. Lisa Crilley takes her first shot in a lead role as Margo and just barely holds the role. It’s not clear if it is the material or Crilley who is to blame, but at least she’s got a great scream, which certainly holds some weight. Poor Bill Cobbs is reduced to stumbling around, muttering a few words and taking long drags of liquor, while Chris Devlin shows off his abilities to make you want to punch him through the screen. And hey, is that Heather Donahue of The Blair Witch Project fame being completely wasted in a few scenes? Why yes, yes it is.
The one thing that The Morgue does succeed in is having a set design that is too good for this movie. The labyrinth-like corridors of crypts and coffins that twist and wind seemingly for infinity offer up the only place where some interesting camera work and lighting is even attempted. So kudos to the production design team, who at least offer up something to keep our attention during the bleak emptiness of this movie.
Now, a word on the marketing in conjunction with the Lionsgate DVD release, which features an anamorphic widescreen transfer along with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The whole point of a twist ending is that we are not supposed to know it is coming. In a post-Shyamalan world, if you put “There is an astonishing twist ending” right there are the back of the DVD box, chances are we’re going to spend the whole time figuring out what it is. And in the case of The Morgue, viewers will be abysmally disappointed when the
astonishing mundane twist that Al-Doori has to offer can be deciphered mere minutes into the film.
Need something to help fall asleep tonight and C-SPAN just isn’t doing the trick? Well then you’re in luck because Halder Gomes and Gerson Sanginitto have concocted the perfect remedy. Sweet dreams!