A stranger called Allan goes to the House of Usher. He is the sole friend of Roderick Usher, who lives in the eerie house with his sick wife Madeleine. When she dies, Roderick does not accept her death, and in the dark night, Madeleine returns.
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In parts the inter-titles really fuck up the rhythm of the images and visually break it up, but there are some great segments and double exposures. Promising, but as a whole not as impressive as some of the experimental silents work I've seen. The Joakim soundtrack was impressive - a real collaboration with the images and one of the few soundtracks I kept on :D
The fusion of two Poe's stories doesn't work very well and the characters are not very interesting. What we have is an expressive horror film full of visual ideas but without enough drama to hold it through. The acting is too theatrical and it lacks the devastating flow of "mental images" (if I can call them that) of other Epstein films. With the exception of two or three scenes, it doesn't seem one of his films.
Cinematically powerful but dramatically weak telling of the Poe classic that deviates greatly from the original story. In terms of film language however the film is quite overwhelming in its technique for 1928 with its innovations outpacing its content. Atmospheric but not haunting...American gothic ...it's not. Add to the mix lethargic performances and you're left with all style no substance.
One of the great unsung cinematic glimpses into the world of the gothic and supernatural makes me aware how much closer this film is to Dreyer's "Vampyr. Its surreal, claustrophobic twisted darkness seems to choke all the life blood out of its characters and its use of multi-exposure unsettles everything. Epstein's work is only now being rediscovered so the world can see how brilliantly imaginative he was...
In my opinion, the Europeans can't do American Gothic. They tend to be lyrical and artier, maternal, whereas American Gothic is all horror, irony and wretchedness. Bierce, Poe or Lovecraft are all brutal and violent, more sardonic than transcendental, more open to chaos and erraticism. And they are always out of borders. French Connection: Villiers de l'Isle-Adam and Charles Baudelaire.