The House Of Usher (2007/THINKFilm)
B- Sound: B- Extras: C- Film: C-
D. H. Lawrence's take on Edgar Allan Poe in his seminal Studies in Classic
American Literature: the Life of the Mind will be the death of us
all. As Lawrence sees it, Poe is all cerebral, mental, neurotic,
not even remotely physical, certainly not sexual. Love,
yes, but not sex: obsessive love, compulsive love, oppressive love. Not
the best kind of love, admittedly, actually probably the worst, but
yes, sex, not so much.
brings us to The House of Usher, a
modern day updating-cum-sequel (of sorts) to Poe's original short
story, The Fall of the House of Usher. This adaptation
shows some promise in its initial premise and even, on occasion, in its
execution. The atmosphere is good and Poe, like his
disciple, H. P. Lovecraft, is all about atmosphere. The story's
original narrator, a school chum of Roderick Usher, is transformed into a
woman, Jill Michaelson, a former lover of Rick Usher (himself now an
aspiring writer and neurasthenic par excellence), and friend of his twin
sister, Maddy. The film opens with a phone call to
our heroine, Jill, announcing the death of friend Maddy and an inviting her to
attend the funeral at the ancestral Usher home.
commensurate atmospherics. Rick convinces Jill to stay the weekend, and
then beyond, in hopes of rekindling something, presumably
their former romance, though his debilitating illness seems to have left
him rather wanting (see D. H. Lawrence, above). Jill is rather
inexplicably attracted again to her former lover: insert sex
"here." That being said, this is no hedonistic romp
disguised as a horror film, no dragging out of the old master to tart him up,
though we do a get a bit much of
Jill (Izabella Miko) traipsing about the old homestead in her
skivvies. There are lots of creaky doors, flitting peripheral
visions and badly timed, portentous music to keep things moving along.
bright spot is Mrs. Thatcher (no doubt a hoot, in more ways than one, for our
friends across the pond), played by Beth Grant to the steely hilt, as
a Mrs. Danvers clone, crudely abducted not so much from the Du
Maumier novel as the Hitchcock screenplay, whose occasional leer
reminds one of cracking marble.
is Poe to the second power, or perhaps the seventh generation. It seems
since the original Roderick and Madeline Usher, there have been generation
after generation of Usher twins breeding more, uh, Usher twins etc. and so
with the premature passing of Maddy, Rick needs a breeder and Jill is
it. Playing it for all it's worth as a dim bulb
cheerleader-type gone slightly to seed, Jill realizes all this a bit too
late and so the film revisits the original story for the climactic deus ex
machina or premature burial, if you will.
the shortest shrift in all this goes to the House itself. Though it
tries to rear its nefarious mansard, all it can manage is that occasional
creak, a winding spiral staircase and a basement with a
hyperbaric chamber. No histrionics here, architectural, or otherwise.
Vincent Price's Grand Guignol acting and Roger Corman's lo-fi
pyrotechnics are but a wispy, nostalgic dream. But that was another time,
and this is another very different movie.
Lawrence was, of course, spot on, albeit the death only cinematic.
stylized, the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image is not bad, while the
Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (as phony as it may get) is surround active often, even
with ambience. Extras include trailers
for this & other THINKFilm productions, audio commentary and deleted
scenes, none of which help.
– Don Wentworth