Director - George Bowers (Private Resort, The Dukes of Hazzard)
Starring - Trish Van Devere (The Changeling, Messenger of Death), Joseph Cotton (The Survivor, Tales of the Unexpected), and David Gautreaux (The Night Shift, Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
Release Date - 1980
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "The barrier between life and death is no greater than the thickness of a door. And now...the door is open!"
Format - Bluray (Personal Collection) (Screener)
Rating (Out of 5):
It's not often that Vinegar Syndrome releases a film that I have heard about before. That is one of the many reasons I enjoy their releases. So many companies re-release classic horror films like Evil Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and the like instead of giving fans something they may have never heard of before. I love when a company, like Vinegar Syndrome, releases a film that has never had a proper release before. Sometimes these films were only released on VHS if they were mass released at all. Other times they are films that may have been released on DVD but the quality just wasn't there. Recently, Vin Syn release the 1980 gothic thriller The Hearse on blu. This is actually one of the films I had acquired over the years collection in a box set. When I tried to watch it the film was so dark I couldn't tell what was going on. It was easily one of the worst looking DVD transfers that I had ever seen. When Vin Syn announced the release I was excited. I was finally able to see a film I had owned for so long. Thanks Vin Syn for the hook up!
The film follows Jane Hardy (Devere) is a woman close to the edge. She recently lost her mother in the midst of a horrible divorce. She decides to get out of the city for the summer and go stay at her aunt's home out in the country. The caretaker and town clerk is bitter that she is claiming the home instead of giving it to him and the townsfolk are not happy she is staying there either. The home is known around town as being haunted and many suspected her aunt was into Satanic worship. The longer she stays there the more strange occurances she encounters like a black hearse following her and terrorizing her at night and other supernatural activity late at night. Is she finally going crazy or is something more sinister lurking in the shadows of her late aunt's home?
I've always like the artwork for The Hearse. The artwork is haunting and one that I've always associated with Halloween. I know the film has nothing to do with Halloween but just looking at it really helps you get in the holiday spirit in similar fashion to the posts for Something Wicked This Way Comes, Lady in White, and Watcher in the Woods. Sadly, the film does not do a great job at capturing that same feeling. The film isn't bad. In fact, I really enjoyed it but it doesn't capture that gothic haunted mansion tone that the artwork portrays so well. The acting in this one is decent. I really liked Trish Van Devere but I feel as if she was unclear how to handle her character. Was she supposed to be a strong female lead or is she close to a mental breakdown similar to Beverly Murray's character in Cathy's Curse? The writing or direction should have made this a little more clear. The supporting cast, sadly, isn't anywhere near Devere's talents which makes it a very uneven film in terms of casting. The story for this one is rather bold for the plot but does have a hard time figuring out the direction it wants to go. The film tries to be a haunted house tale with the house almost taking a life of it's own with the doors and windows opening and closing on their own. We are made to believe that it is a drunk doing this in order to scare her off, which is a smart angle, but the film doesn't dedicate enough time to this to make it work. The hearse angle is great. It's spooky at times and really works but we don't get it enough. For a movie titles The Hearse you would expect more hearse! The film has a great pace and so many layers but they are unable to pull them into a story with the gothic atmosphere that most expect from a haunted house film. Finally, the film does have a few death scenes but they are not bloody and gory. The story could easily be passed as a children horror film in the same line as Lady in White. In fact, I wish it would have. I could see this plot being an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?. The film doesn't really offer up effects but does give the viewer a very character driven story. Overall, The Hearse is a fun PG rated horror film that you can watch with the kid. No blood or gore but it does hit the spot for those that enjoy films like The Gate, Poltergeist, and Monster Squad. Check it out.