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The Hearse (1980) - Blu-ray Review

4 beersIt’s not many who survive a haunting by a four-wheeled death delivery machine.  And the assorted characters assembled for this flick know that so much insanity in one little town is not good for tourism.  This low budget horror flick, complete with a seriously shocking nightmare sequence, is my kind of movie.  From close encounters on the pitch-black roads in rural Northern California to drive-bys at dusk, there’s no escaping the frightening steel of The Hearse.

Beginning with the splashed on title cards and the beautifully shot San Francisco locale, The Hearse is one hell of a ride through Terror Town when woman discovers the truth about her family…and her inherited legacy.  The Hearse is perfect company for a hot, summer night.  Let this open-ended flick quench your thirst. 

There are so many shocks and startles throughout the movie that it’s a wonder more people don’t know about this haunted house tale.  The jump scares, while routine, work to create a suspenseful mood.  Even the five-note piano tinkling when something is amiss rings true.  Fans of shock and satanic schlock are in for a real treat with Vinegar Syndrome’s handling of this cult classic.  

When Walter Pritchard (Joseph Cotton) unlocks the door to the old Martin place, its new tenant stops short.  He asks her what is wrong.  “I don’t know.  Just a chill,” says Jane Hardy (Trish Van Devere) as she stares at the house in disrepair left to her by her Aunt.  That’s our second clue that all is not well with this trip to Blackford.  The first was the hearse that sideswiped her as she pulled into the town.  Yes, a hearse.  

Jane’s been through a lot in the past year.  Divorce can wreck even the sanest of souls.  And that damn hearse isn’t going to ease her mind.  Oh, she tries to make the house her own.  She cleans.  She sweeps.  She even washes the windows.  Brave enough to grab a ladder and prop it against the upstairs window, she grabs some cleaner and gets busy…until she sees a woman on the other side of the window…INSIDE the damn house.  It’s a spooky moment.  One of many…which include doors unexpectedly slamming shut, figures seen in mirrors, footsteps heard coming up the stairs, and instruments playing by themselves.

Released by Crown International Pictures and directed by George Bowers (Private Resort), The Hearse is a chilling tale about unknown family secrets in a small town where everyone BUT Jane knows the truth about her dead relative.  From nosy local sheriffs (who drink while on duty) to super helpful handyman (until they hear the location of the house), Jane is quick to suspect something is up.  Either that or everyone in the tiny town is batshit crazy.  Or is it something else?

When she starts discovering clues concerning the nocturnal activities of her deceased aunt’s dark activities, even an unexpected visit by Reverend Winston (Donald Hotton) – who broadcasts on the local radio station rants and ravings concerning Satan’s many, many influences – can’t make her feel any better about the town or the house she’s living in.  Her aunt's discovered diary doesn't help either.  

Critics loudly dismissed the roaring engine of The Hearse at the time of its release, with Ebert famously claiming it was an “Idiot Plot” of a flick.  Pay him no mind.  This is maddeningly effective horror that, quite simply, sneaks up on the viewer to deliver some tense frights that shouldn't feel as fresh as they do.  Nothing is dynamic about this movie.  I mean midnight conversations upon a rowboat will always end in disaster, right?  Right.  But thanks to composer Webster Lewis, the film is a successful catch-and-release tale of haunted house paranoia as one woman becomes so taken by her ghoulish nightmares that she can’t shake the fright of the past that constantly rides by her rural route address night after night.

If supernatural terror is your destination, The Hearse will you take you there.


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The Hearse (1980) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: PG.
99 mins
: George Bowers
William Bleich
Trish Van Devere, Joseph Cotten, David Gautreaux
: Horror
There is a door between life and death and now, that door is open!.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Oh! You scared the hell out of me!"
Theatrical Distributor:
Crown International Pictures
Official Site: http://www.crownintlpictures.com/hktitles.html
Release Date:
June 20, 1980
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 30, 2017
Synopsis: Jane Hardy, a recently divorced teacher from San Francisco, decides to spend the summer at the large old country home willed to her by her aunt. However, upon arriving in the sleepy town where her aunt lived, she’s met with hostility from the locals and slowly begins to discover her aunt’s dark connections to witchcraft and the occult, all the while being menaced by a large black hearse that mysteriously drives near her house in the dead of night....


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The Hearse (1980) - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Vinegar Syndrome
Available on Blu-ray
- May 30, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English SDH
English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Region A

Newly scanned and restored in 2k from 35mm original camera negative, The Hearse arrives on blu-ray courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome.  The 1.78:1 aspect ratio preserves the film’s original look.  There was apparently no light filter used during the shoot, so the outside scenes are bright and detailed and faces shadowed throughout.  Details are strong throughout the restoration and even new illumination seems discovered.  There’s clarity to many of the scenes that was never before present.  Skin tones are adequately saturated and – while backgrounds are sparse – the new sheen adds much to the film.  The sound is presented in a DTS-HD track.



  • None

Special Features:

With a sole new video interview from lead actor, David Gautreaux, the supplemental items are sparse for Vinegar Syndrome.  It is also somewhat basic with looks at the film’s TV Spot and original trailer.  A DVD copy of the movie is also included.  Along with reversible cover art, fans of low budget flicks will want to add this one to their collection.

  • Satan Get Behind Thee
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spot
  • Promotional Still Gallery


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The Hearse (1980) - Blu-ray Review