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The Hearse (1980) – DVD Review

hearse dvd cover


Written by: George Bowers
Directed by: William Bleich
Starring: Trish Van Devere, Joseph Cotton, David Gautreaux

Theatrical trailer

Released by: Rhino
Region: 1
Rating: PG
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Run from it…and watch for those tree roots.

By Cthulhu’s mighty tentacles, this is a bad movie!

Let’s get the synopsis out of the way. Jane Hardy has recently gotten divorced. Instead of going out with some girlfriends to Chippendale’s and sticking some singles in some guy’s Speedo, she goes to her dead aunt’s house in a small country town to “think things through”. Her friends say it’s a bad idea, her shrink says it’s a bad idea, but does she listen? Of course not, old school horror heroines don’t have common sense. When a black hearse tries to run her off the road, the townsfolk are determined to make her life as difficult as possible, and she finds out her aunt worshiped Satan…does she haul ass back to San Francisco? Of course not, see above reason. There’s a young handyman who has a schoolboy crush on her, a minister who counsels her troubled soul, and a stranger who she’s mysteriously drawn to, but do we care? Of course not, this is a shitty movie!

[ad#longpost]Where shall I start with why this was an awfully bad film? Should I start with the one-dimensional characters, the plot holes you could fly a space shuttle through, the dialogue that must have been written by coke-addled monkeys? These are not the biggest flaws The Hearse has. Good horror, in my opinion, is built around the villain. Those who exist and thrive outside morality and sanity have always fascinated audiences. Hannibal Lecter, Freddy Krueger, Norman Bates, Dracula–these nasty pieces of work along with many, many others represent the dark impulses of the reptilian part of man’s brain focused and twisted by his intellect. All this movie has is some dude riding around in a hearse. That’s just sad. I need a mad dog killer, an evil genius, or a diabolical serial killer. There’s no dark intelligence, no homicidal fury, not even a good evil laugh. This guy is as scary as boiled spinach.

Another major part of a horror movie is the spectacle. The acts committed must shock, appall, and awe your viewers with their evil and depravity. Think about the elaborate murders in Seven, the pea soup vomit from The Exorcist, or the horrific features of the Cenobites from Hellraiser. The acts and images presented must excite and terrify. In The Hearse, the first actual murder doesn’t happen until the last half hour of the movie. All we get before this is doors and windows opening by themselves, the lights going out, and a couple of odd dream sequences. Do we see any blood, gore, or mutilation? No, nothing. Now I’m not saying that you need fake blood and prosthetic wounds to create horror. The Blair Witch Project uses the characters’ own fears and some creepy woods to generate terror. But for psychological horror to work, you need characters with actual personalities. And they are not to be found in this flick.

hearse night
The Hearse. Oooh, spooky.

The DVD is as bare of special features as it was of thrills. There’s only a trailer and if I didn’t like the movie, why should I care about a trailer? The quality of the feature itself is sub par. Watching it, you want to adjust the sharpness of your monitor. I don’t know if the DVD transfer or the original print was bad, but I can see why they didn’t put a lot of effort into this disc. The Hearse is dull and that makes this movie truly horrible.

The Hearse DVD menu
The Hearse DVD menu. This is somehow spookier.

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