Release Date(s)1980 (May 30, 2017)
Studio(s)Crown International Pictures (Vinegar Syndrome)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: C
An often forgotten genre title, 1980’s The Hearse was released right on the cusp of the slasher boom that would make many films like it unpopular for a prolonged period of time. Trish Van Devere stars as a newly-divorced teacher looking to get away from the city, taking up residence in her deceased aunt’s rural home. After receiving disapproval from the local townspeople for her presence in the house, it becomes abundantly clear that the house has a sordid history and that a mysterious hearse terrorizing her at night has something to do with it all.
Directed by George Bowers, who is mostly known as an editor for films like The Stepfather and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, The Hearse is a slow-moving and atmospheric piece, focusing more on story than bloodshed. It has the feel of a TV movie, and not just because Van Devere is remembered for being a TV movie actress. The film itself doesn’t have much in common with the hack and slash fodder occurring around it, but it’s clear that it had them on its mind. There’s even a steadicam shot fairly similar to the one seen in the original Halloween. Written by William Bleich, who also wrote the TV horror movie cult classic The Midnight Hour, The Hearse is quaint in its clichés and overall approach, but its simplicity makes it an easy watch.
Vinegar Syndrome’s release of The Hearse features a top-notch presentation of the film. Restored in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative, there’s a natural flow of grain on display, allowing for a high level of fine detail in both the foreground and background. Color reproduction is also quite strong, although colors don’t exactly pop off the screen. Black levels are deep with excellent shadow detailing while brightness and contrast levels are also satisfactory. It’s also stable and clean outside of a few random and hardly noticeable scratches, making it a solid presentation. The sole audio option available is an English mono DTS-HD track. While not a rollicking speaker workout by any means, dialogue levels are clean and discernable. Sound effects and score even have a surprising amount of life to them with a tiny bit of low frequency activity. Hiss and distortions are next to non-existent as well. Optional subtitles are available in English SDH, as are a few extras, including the interview segment Satan Get Behind Thee with David Gautreaux; the film’s original theatrical trailer; a TV spot; an animated promotional still gallery; and a DVD copy. It’s also worth mentioning that the previous Scorpion DVD release featured an interview with writer William Bleich, but unfortunately, that couldn’t be included here.
Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release of The Hearse is a welcome upgrade over mostly substandard DVD releases, and with a quality presentation of the film, horror fans might just find something here to appreciate.
- Tim Salmons