Like so many ’80s and ’90s kids, my first introduction to the wonderful world of Troma pictures was the Toxic Crusaders cartoon. It was an absolutely absurd half hour of mutated eco-warriors battling the forces of evil. That initial perception of Troma, as some kid-friendly, bizarre cartoon studio wouldn’t last, though. By the time I was in high school, I was becoming well versed in the adventures of The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ‘Em High and my personal favorite, Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. Like the shamelessly exploitative Z-pictures of the 1950s, Troma was producing some of the most low-budget schlock I’d ever seen in my life and it was absolutely amazing. So amazing, in fact, that when the chance to take a look at some of their newest work presented itself, I jumped at the opportunity.
Memento Mortis is one of the major titles featured this month on the production company’s new streaming service, Troma Now! and it does not disappoint. The story focuses on Shay, a shy, quiet, young photographer who has taken her love for pictures — as well as other hobbies — to the extreme. Doing postmortem “Remembrance Photography” for grieving mothers who have lost infants at birth, her day job is more of a cover than anything else. Her real passion comes as Coffin Kelly, a seductive alter ego who photographs herself doing strip routines alongside whatever freshly unearthed corpse she can get her hands on. Working with Roger, the gay necrophiliac groundskeeper of the local cemetery, she’s been making a living in the most sexily macabre way possible. Like any story, though, things are going well until she meets Mason and falls in love. What begins as a sordid tale of pseudo necrophilia becomes a romantic comedy but, in true Troma fashion, quickly descends into something far more sinister and unnatural, as good guy Mason’s true colors begin to show.
I’m not going to lie. I’ve seen high-school kids with a GoPro make better movies on YouTube than Memento Mortis. While the story was good, the performances were wooden and the production value was low, even by Troma standards. Makeup, lighting and audio are all practically non-existent in a film that was edited less like a bizarre, art-house horror and more like a porno, where the sex was left on the cutting room floor, leaving only the hackneyed, uncomfortable build up spliced together to make a cohesive plot. That said, the poor editing leads to some of the funniest moments of the film, as you notice blatantly amateurish moments that any other director would have left on the cutting room floor.
I love Troma movies. They’re gory, obscene and intentionally funny in the most satirical ways possible. The director of Memento Mortis had a clear vision, even if the execution wasn’t the best. Audiences are given a chance to view an updated, much less grotesque version of the early ’90s shock horror film, Necromantik. The film has moments of humor and fun interactions between Shay and Mason, but other than the intended shock over the taboos of necrophilia and dead baby photography, there isn’t a lot there. The horror is focused on the idea of performing sexual acts against (or on or with) dead bodies stolen from the grave.
The story is entertaining and, as a fan of schlocky, low-budget productions, I have to say I really did enjoy this. If you’re subscribed to Troma Now, then you should definitely give it a look. You won’t be disappointed.