Putting the Fun in “The Funeral” by Richard Matheson

Right now, short stories are my passion. I’ve read more short stories over the past few months than I have in a long time. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed all of the short stories and have been able to learn a lot from them. Sometimes I learn how to create a character in a short period of time. Some stories helped me learn how to use minimal elements to tell a complete story. But none have done what “The Funeral” by Richard Matheson was able to do. This story, to me at least, put the fun in funeral. Every movie monster shows up in this short, fun ride and I think you would enjoy it.

The story begins with a somber mood of a character planning a funeral. Funeral planning is never good. To compound this, we discover the character on the page is planning their own funeral. Interestingly enough, because this character is a vampire, he’s been dead for years. The funeral director is very nervous and is trying to be accommodating but things go terribly wrong and it seems as though he doesn’t know what to do.

I thought the story was funny, quick paced, and could be seen as the start of a short story series. I would have liked to story to be a little longer, but I honestly don’t know what could have been added to make it a little longer.

There were a few things I did learn from this story. First, when you are tackling a well-used and well-worn set of characters, you don’t need to go overboard with the descriptions. We, as readers, have seen Count Dracula so many times that all we need to be shown are his pointy teeth and know what he looks like. Likewise, we can see the witch with her cat and don’t need a picture laid out in excessive detail to know who they are and how they act.

Second, I learned that less is more in this story. Over the course of the story we are able to understand that one of the main characters, Skyline, was having a terrible time sleeping. But I didn’t read about the week of sleepless nights. I didn’t see the main character tossing and turning over the course of a week, all I was shown was the bags under Skyline’s eyes. This tells a lot without telling too much. Fantastic.

Thirdly, I learned that sometimes you need to surprise your audience by turning the common tropes on their side and look at them differently to keep them interested. Because this was undoubtedly a monster story, I as a reader knew what was about to happen. So, what happens in all monster stories? Someone gets maimed, eaten, murdered. In short, something brutal happens. If it’s a monster movie, there are gallons of blood. Anyway, this had none of that. There was not a single death and it played well. The main monster, a vampire, was the most cordial of all monsters I’ve ever seen. My favorite moment in the story was when he was asking his “mourners” to be polite and respect the funeral. This was hilarious.

Lastly, I learned that monsters can have a soft side and can be funny and they don’t have to sparkle to draw laughs. That was refreshing.

I was a little disappointed when the story ended and would have liked to see a few more monsters coming through the doors. I wondered if this would become Skyline’s real business instead of burying the dead, he just had funerals for the undead.

If you have read “The Funeral” by Matheson, I would love to hear your thoughts. If you haven’t, I suggest you pick up I am Legend and read it.

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