Jane Hardy (Van Devere) is getting over her divorce, so she takes a vacation in the house formerly owned by her aunt, who died over 30 years before. Of course, the fact that her aunt worshipped Satan is left out of the invite, as well as the details of her corpse mysteriously disappearing when the hearse carrying it has an accident.
No sooner is Jane situated then she has run-ins with the hearse, spooky dreams and the disdain of the townsfolk. The hardware guy won't deliver, the handyman won't work on her place, and all that despite the fact she's pretty hot.
For some reason, she tends to go out driving at night and continuously has near misses with the titular vehicle. Once she hears of the past (through expository dialogue), she gets defiant, even as she's repeating the exact scenario her aunt went through.
The Hearse makes use of a lot of standard fare; dolls, slamming doors, banging pipes, repeated stock footage of a car, bad dreams, and the camera's point of view providing tension. There are a few good jumps.
I couldn't quite understand why the preacher was pushing the message to someone to believe in themselves, with God as an afterthought. Then again, I never met a priest who looked that much like David Carradine.
As for the story, there are plenty of gaps, and the writers apparently realized an hour in that people are supposed to die in these movies. The ending is completely predictable, which is better than forcing a twist, but not very satisfying overall.
In general, The Hearse is a haunted house movie that tries to also be a haunted car movie, combining (sometimes forcefully) two formulas.
The late Joseph Cotton (Soylent Green, The Abominable Dr. Phibes) makes the most of his small role, setting the tone early for the general attitude of the townspeople. Med Flory does a good job as his typecast role of Sheriff (with a side of sleaze), and officially gives me the first chance to use the name Med in a review. David Gautreaux (Star Trek, ER) perfects the dark and mysterious love interest.
I shouldn't be able to ID the guy with the two lines he has in the movie, but Chuck Mitchell, a.k.a. Porky from the series of the same name, shows up as the guy in the diner. Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore's Shooter McGavin) is another notable cameo.
The Hearse is part of an eight movie DVD pack titled “Horrible Horrors” by Rhino Home Entertainment. Extras include solely scene selection.