Who is this woman? How is a corpse so flawless despite being stonedead? “Tilden – Crematory and Morgue” works eagerly to find the cause of death and ends up finding more than wanted.
Like father, like son
The experienced coroner Thomas Tilden and his pathology-newby son Austin run a small morgue in a small town. Soon the family business will need a successor, but Austin is not quite ready nor willing to take over. Still, he spends hours in the dark basement morgue and crematory to learn how to examine corpses and make coroner’s inquiries for the local police department.
While Austin has a investigatory vein and is always on the lookout for the reasons why someone ended up in their basement, his father always reminds him “That’s up to the police”. Thomas has learned that sometimes it’s healthier not to ask too many questions.
Who’s that girl?
When a local policeman drops by the morgue in the middle of the night with the corpse of a young woman, Austin is on his way out with his girlfriend. She came by to pick him up and demanded a tour through the morgue where she’s learned about the family tradition of putting little bells on the deceased’s foot. (In former times apparent death was a widespread phenomenon. The bells helped the seemingly dead to get noticed once they moved again.)
Despite ditching his girlfriend before, Austin again decides for the morgue instead of the bar. The young female corpse is too flawless, too clean for having been found under the circumstances the police described. In the three-part process of the autopsy Austin and his father go looking for causes of death – and find rather the opposite.
My two Cents
The tradition of the tiny bells is a central motif to the story. Not only do they foreshadow the plot of the movie but also provide a retrospect to a time where medicine was not quite as developed and myths surrounded the living and the dead. That’s exactly the dynamic of the movie: Also the protagonists move back and forth between living and dying, truth and make believe, leaving behind the possible world and entering one of higher powers.
The fact that the movie works with telling rather than showing (the story evolves through the process of the autopsy), doesn’t mean that there are no skin-crawling moments. On the contrary, the uncertainty provides suspense and motivates the audience to make their own guess, thereby diving even deeper into the story.
Director: André Øvredal