Most likely, the worst horror film of 1980
Really bad movies have their own fascination. It’s good now and then to salute the worst as well as the best. Bela Lugosi starred in what’s probably the worst movie of all time – Plan 9 From Outer Space – where the spacecraft are certainly flying dinner plates. But the silly effort is remembered with fondness by movie buffs, the more so as it was Lugosi’s last movie before his death half way through production in 1956.
Appearing in 1980, ‘The Hearse’ has few redeeming features, certainly not the idiot plot. The movie’s only humour is unintentional and barely visible. The idiot in this case is a young woman, played by Trish Van Devere, who decides to move to a small town to live in the house of a dead aunt. She makes the decision, so we are told in a pointless scene with a psychiatrist, because she wants to put the events of the past year behind her, notably a nervous breakdown and a collapsed relationship.
So Trish drives for 24 hours and arrives in the small town in the middle of the night. Her car collides with a huge black hearse but nobody is injured and, miraculously, there’s no damage to her vehicle when daylight shows up. Who is driving the hearse remains a secret as it disappears round a bend soon after the accident.
She is then shown round the house by a garrulous lawyer played by Joseph Cotton who seems to think the house should have been left to him in the dead aunt’s will. Trish next has a run-in with the local sheriff and is cheered or jeered whilst jogging by two teenage boys. From these encounters, we learn that sex starvation appears to be rampant in the old town.
Trish moves into the house and there are soon the ex-pected ominous happenings,
including a music box which plays even when shut, a slamming door or two, the appearance of the dead aunt in a mirror and at a window, footsteps in the middle of the night, and broken doors and windows which don’t need the repairman to look as good as new. Meantime the black hearse appears a couple of times but nobody knows why.
If these happenings had occurred to you or me, we would immediately have cancelled the vacation on the grounds that the darned place was haunted. But not our Trish. She gets up every morning fresh as a bobbin and ready to take more insults on the chin from the hostile locals. When she tries to buy some provisions at the local store, she is told “we don’t deliver out there”.
Then, quite out of the blue, Tom turns up. He’s dishy, polite and old fashioned. Trish kinda likes him, especially after he takes her for a trip in a row boat. It’s obvious to anybody watching the film that Tom is in reality a ghost, the boyfriend of the dead aunt, but Trish persists in believing he’s just a normal all American boy. Oh, and he’s good in bed by the way.
In this movie, you never find a consistent framework for the terrible things which are taking place. We are told that the dead aunt was interested
in witchcraft, although how
this relates to the rest of the so-called plot is a complete mystery. And why is Tom hanging around seducing young women? Then there’s the local priest who seems to think Satan may be involved and holds up his cross as winds blow through the old house. Is the residence really haunted and, if so, what bearing does that have on the rest of the characters?
At the very end, we see the black hearse crashing into a ravine and bursting into flames. Tom is in the driver’s seat and smiling just before the catastrophe. Maybe he knows something we don’t about the afterlife.
Pity they never made a sequel. Pitiable but most certainly understandable.