Seton Hill Horror Rig Blog: THE FUNERAL


This was a little more wacky than I expected. I mean I still felt an underlying menace, but it more like a more-threatening-than-average episode of the Munsters. (A werewolf! A vampire! A witch! Oh my!)

It was particularly interesting for me as I’m in the middle of writing a romantic comedy series about a family that runs a funeral home (slash-bait-shop. It’s set in the South. We like to make the most of our business space.) Obviously, my work is a slightly lighter women’s fiction take on the funeral business, so this Haunted Mansion style approach to burying people was a neat palate cleanser.

I will say this is a much more humorous work than Matheson’s novels, particularly I Am Legend. It feels like Matheson is trying to purge the darkness from his system in some sort of writing prompt experiment. It’s fun and its a little silly, but still very sophisticated and polished.

The Funeral seems to make much of the stereotype of the gaunt, clammy-handed mortician who has spent so much time with corpses that he doesn’t know how to interact with the living. While it’s fun to play with that as a writer, I’ve known several funeral directors over the years – they’re generally sweet and gentle souls, who go out of their way not to be creepy. My high school’s vice principal – who was one of the few school officials to appreciate my sarcasm – worked as a funeral director after his retirement – which should tell you something about what the man put up with as a principal that he considered talking contracts with the bereaved and breaking up fights as visitation to be his RESTFUL golden years job.

I never  noticed any of these real-life funeral directors being quite so sycophantic or using the supercilious ten-dollar words that Mr. Silkline used. His abuse of overblown adjectives reminded me of Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice, particularly his distant worship of Mrs. Clooney. But I enjoyed his reverent indignation on behalf of the damaged upholstery and drapes. Jenny really needs to get a handle on her angry lightning powers.

I did question some of the language choices Matheson used.  Several of them – “catalfaque” and “calumnies” and “cromlech” – I questioned were they were actual words. Was he trying to use all of the options in his thesaurus? Was there a list of words another writer bet him that he couldn’t use in a story? Did he really love or hate the letter “C?” While many of the illustrative details used – the onyx pen holder, the cherry-bright eyes, the snail-backed assistant – made the story rich and colorful, I found these word choices to be intrusive and distracting.

Overall, while I enjoyed the story as a little bite of horror, I kind of wondered what the point of the story was. Mr. Silkline goes from being completely uncomfortable with a funeral for a living (or at least, conscious) person to lovingly stroking the gold he collected from the oddball and destructive service to resigning himself to a career devoted to funeral services for monsters. It shows growth and there’s a punchline. But it seems to leave so many questions unanswered and seems to be underdeveloped. Like it’s the introduction or excerpts from a larger work. I would like to see more.

3 Replies to “Seton Hill Horror Rig Blog: THE FUNERAL”

  1. I couldn’t agree more with you concerning the language used in this story. Contessa brought up a good point that for a relatively silly story concerning monsters, the language was very dense. I will admit that I had to look up a word or two when reading, and it certainly pulled me out of the story.

  2. I think your point about Silkline being a stereotype is so true. A funeral director who can’t put people at ease won’t have a job very long. I agree with the bad language choices, also. To me, the pompous language worked too well, making me feel like this was a pompous story, which I’m sure was unintended on the author’s part. The tone just didn’t work.

  3. Hi Molly,

    I am all for a good funny wonky story, but Matheson certainly failed here on all accounts. Admittedly, I am not a big fan of the short story. While there are some fantastic shorts, I have seem be unlucky enough to run into ones like this. “The Funeral” definitely left me wondering what the point of it all was. The dense language put me to sleep on more than one occasion. Reading five flipping pages should not be this much work!

    The snail backed assistant and the like language gave the story a cartoonic feel, but not in a good way. It was distracting and annoying. I laughed at your wondering if another writer may have bet him that he couldn’t use all those words in a story! At least that would be a good excuse, then maybe I be impressed. But as it stands, please please do not give me more of these stories! Hoping better stories are on the horizon!

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