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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Literature > Horror > The House Of Usher (2007/THINKFilm)

The House Of Usher (2007/THINKFilm)


Picture: B- Sound: B- Extras: C- Film: C-



To paraphrase 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 love nonetheless. 


So, love yes, sex, not so much.


Which 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.   


Cue the 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.


One 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.


The plot 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.


Perhaps 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.


D. H. Lawrence was, of course, spot on, albeit the death only cinematic.



Though 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


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