By 1980, slashers ruled the movie theaters. Yet every once in awhile, a traditional horror film would emerge. A film like The Hearse. A movie that’s more about an evil house and a ghost boyfriend and an evil woman and the occult just as much as it’s about a car that drives around and haunts people.
Jane Hardy (Trish Van Devere, the widow of George C. Scott who also appears with him in The Changeling) just got divorced and just left San Francisco. While she gets her head together, she’s decided to live in the old country home in Blackford that her aunt willed to her.
From the minute she arrives in Blackford, everyone is hostile to her. That’s because her aunt was a witch. Meanwhile, a large black hearse begins driving past her house, stalking her when the evening grows dark. But also, her aunt’s home is haunted and by her spirit. There may also be a coven stalking around, too.
Goerge Bowers didn’t direct many films (he also did My Tutor), but was better known as the editor of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, A League of Their Own, The Good Son, From Hell and many more films. Here, he creates a film that harkens back to classic horror versus modern slashers.
Joseph Cotten (The Abominable Dr. Phibes) is also on-hand, as are several people who were important to the music and art worlds. Like Med Flory, whose Supersax band won a Grammy for their translations of Charlie Parker’s music. He’s also in The Boogens! Then there’s Al Hansen of the Fluxus artist collective, who would give birth to Warhol protege Bibbe Hansen and is also the grandfather of rock star Beck.
Luke, the teen who has a crush on Jane, is played by Donald Petrie, who would grow up to direct How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Miss Congeniality, Mystic Pizza and Grumpy Old Men. He’s in a subplot here that goes nowhere, other than to show Trish Van Devere in a tight 70’s jogging outfit. And the sheriff is played by character actor Chuck Mitchell, who played Porky Wallace in the Porky’s series of films (he also shows up in Don’t Answer the Phone! and Frightmare.
For more pop culture reference, The Hearse also has Christopher McDonald (Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore!), David Gautreaux (Star Trek: The Motion Picture) and Allison Balson (Nancy Oleson from Little House on the Prarie).
I have a beat up cheap DVD copy of this that I paid $1 for. But you should totally spring for the new re-issue from Vinegar Syndrome, complete with new artwork, TV and theatrical trailers and an interview with David Gautreaux. It’s newly scanned in 2K from the 35mm negative. I can promise you my bottom of the barrel copy is not.