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The Hearse (1980)

by on 2011/09/16

“Satan, get thee behind me.”

* * *

I used to think teachers were really lucky. They get the whole summer off as a reward for their day-in, day-out dealings with loud, shrill, occasionally ill-behaved children.

Jane, an elementary school teacher, decides to spend her extended summer holiday at an old house in the country. Nothing like a little country air to help stave off a well-earned nervous breakdown.

Rocky divorce, her mother’s recent death and did I mention Jane was an elementary school teacher? Jane (Trish Van Devere) deserves a summer  “vacay” – as the cool kids say nowadays.

Too bad she’ll vacay with Satan.

You see Jane’s moving into her aunt’s old house, a rambling old place still filled with her beloved aunt’s old-fashioned lady things like gilded mirrors, old photographs that follow you with their judging photographed eyes, a music box that plays by itself, doors that open and shut when you least expect them to…

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a recipe for summer relaxation to me.

There’s another problem. There’s a liveried chauffeur with obviously facial scarring driving a big, black hearse who follows Jane around just about wherever she goes at night. The guy darn near runs her off the road on the first night. I’m really giving nothing away here, you get to see Mr. Killer Chauffeur From Hell early and often.

The locals are no help either. The only person Jane knows is a crusty old lawyer Walter Pritchard (Joseph Cotten) who is an old …er, Pritchard. The grizzled retainer thinks the house and its contents should have gone to him for years of faithful service.

The rest of the town just wants Jane gone.

Why? They think Jane might take after her aunt, what with her aunt being a Satanist and all.

I’ve always found small-town folks look rather dimly on those who worship the Prince of Darkness, Old Scratch, the Deceiver, Father of Lies… I’ll stop.

You couldn’t ask for a better example of mostly successful B-movie suspense. The Hearse is simple, straightforward fun,  driven by the capable acting of Trish Van Devere (although she’s a little prim and superior for my taste).

If you don’t want a film to demand very much of you, The Hearse is your kind of vehicle. In fact, my plot summary might have read as follows:

See Jane run.

Run, run, run.

Jane runs in skimpy running shorts, she runs in a voluminous white nightgown, she runs in a smart sweater-skirt set.

For my money, The Hearse is the perfect weeknight horror movie, ideal for a Wednesday night when school or work or work at a school has left you slightly battered and bruised.

* * *

95 minutes

Rated PG for Satanist rituals and a lady running around in her unmentionables when decent folks are in bed

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