A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
How long has it been since we saluted our least-favorite movie ingredient, the Idiot Plot? Too long, I think we all agree. The Idiot Plot, you'll recall, is a movie plot that depends on everyone in the movie being an idiot. If they were not, the movie would be over within 15 minutes and we could all go home. But that never happens in an Idiot Plot; The characters make such incredibly stupid blunders that we're stuck for a whole movie, watching them wander fecklessly through their own lives.
"The Hearse" is perhaps this summer's best example of an Idiot Plot. The idiot in the movie is a young woman, played by Trish Van Devere in the spirit of a detergent commercial, who decides to move to a small town to live in the house of her dead aunt. She makes this decision (we learn in a pointless scene with a psychiatrist) because she wants to put the events of the past year behind her. If she'd also put the events of the next year behind her, we'd all be a lot better off.
Anyway, she drives to the town late at night, and is almost run off the road by a gigantic black hearse. An ominous sign. Once in town, she's shown around the house by a crusty old attorney (Joseph Cotten) who thinks it should have been his. Site also has a run-in with the local sheriff, who is crude and rude, and with the local adolescent boys, who drive past while she's jogging and scream brainlessly, never having seen such a sight before, I guess.
Trish moves into the house, and immediately there are the usual ominous signs.
Let's see how many I can remember. A music box plays by itself. A door slams by
itself. The long-dead aunt appears in a mirror. She appears behind a window.
There are footsteps on the stairs. Windows are broken. Doors are broken. The
hardware store owner won't deliver to her house. The local minister hints at
evil goings-on. While Trish Is taking a shower, the camera gives us a
point-of-view shot going up the stairs, approaching the shower curtain ... and
then going away (the cameraman was chicken?). On two more occasions, the hearse
tries to run her off the road.
Every night, another ominous manifestation terrifies her. Every morning, she's jolly again, and goes in to shop at the hardware store and be insulted by the local teen-age louts.