What can one say about The Funeral? The delicious short story from Richard Matheson that can be played as late night low-budget horror television fun or be played as a terrifying look into monsters commemorating their earthly demise.
The story gives in a bit to some stereotypes with the pointy-hat wearing witch with the cat and the odd little man repeating “tasty” at poor Morton the mortician and funeral director, but I can forgive these little things as the story is kind of fun and maybe, perhaps, isn’t horror?
Sure, the people who attend the funeral are standard fare at any haunted house. Sure, the story is about a funeral for someone who is clearly undead. But what happens that is horror-esque?
Morton is asked to put on a funeral. Yes, this is morbid stuff, but like it or not we are all going to end up dead one day. Death and taxes baby. Funerals, death as a subject, can’t be relegated to just the horror genre.
Morton puts on that funeral, and does a splendid job. He completes all the requests, including taking down the mirror, and is paid handsomely for his efforts. He is made uneasy by the guests at the funeral, but is that horror? Who hasn’t been annoyed by relatives at an official event? Who hasn’t rolled their eyes at the fanboys talking to the screen during a movie? No, being annoyed by guests is as much a part of social interaction as using turn signals or saying “good morning.”
This story, for me, was touching and a bit funny. All Asper wants is a proper funeral, something he feels he missed out on the first time around. I wonder how many people are truly happy about their funeral? How many of us would do them over or do them differently? Oh wait, we can’t, we’re dead. That’s the funny part. Maybe I am a bit twisted.
But think of all the socially formal events you’ve had to endure: graduations, weddings, funerals, birthdays, retirements, etc. For all but birthdays, you get to do them once. The Funeral almost made me sympathetic to the brides who lose their minds about trivialities like center pieces and the color of ribbon tying balloons down. Almost.
I mean, Asper is dead and a ghoul, and he doesn’t throw a hissy fit about things. In fact, he probably could have killed Morton with ease but he doesn’t. He restrains himself, unlike some of his funeral guests, and some brides to be.
This story reminds me of Hellboy or Joss Whedon’s Angel. Matheson has taken traditional monsters and placed them in a mundane, very human environment. He has fleshed them out to show they have feelings beyond “kill the people” and some of them, Asper anyway, want nice things, no matter the cost. No, Matheson doesn’t take the monster and make it the hero, but he does take the monster and make them … normal.
I mean, when not eating people, what does a monster do with themselves? Even if you give yourself a full hour per meal that leaves 21 hours in the day, what do you do with your time? If Matheson is to be believed, monsters probably do some of the same things.