The House of Usher review, The House of Usher DVD review

Austin Nichols, Izabella Miko, Beth Grant

Hayley Cloake
The House of Usher

Reviewed by Jason Thompson



h, the straight-to-video genre. The place where also-rans and used-to-bes go to continue some semblance of a career (Steven Segal, your agent just rang again). The graveyard where movies not good enough to make it into theatrical release get dumped. But all is not so dark here. This is also the place where aspiring filmmakers can sell their wares in hopes of being noticed by larger entities. Call it the DIY or “alternative” section of the movie world. After all, you have to start somewhere. Yet one can say that and still be countered with the fact that the likes of the supremely dull “Blair Witch Project” came out of nowhere, and grossed insane amounts of cash in theaters and was the epitome of DIY movie making. But then, viral marketing helped it a shitload as well.

But back to the movie at hand. Here we have director Hayley Cloake doing one of those loosely “based on” flicks in an update of the Edgar Allan Poe short story “The Fall of the House of Usher.” This new entry in a long line of “Usher” knockoffs has simply been retitled “The House of Usher.” Does it have a whole lot to do with the original tale? Not really, but then you know kids these days and how they just wouldn’t “get” an old classic. Therefore updating must be done! Bring in a new writer! Collin Chang will do. Collin, make sure you make this damn thing hip enough for today’s discerning youthful crowd! Did you crap on the original story enough? Yes? Great! Action!

In this take on Poe’s old tale we have Jill Michaelson (Isabella Miko) receiving a phone call from her ex-boyfriend Rick Usher (Austin Nichols) informing her that Rick’s sister (and Jill’s best friend) Maddy Usher has died. Jill hasn’t been in touch with either of the two since splitting with Rick, who has now become a famous author. She wasn’t even aware that Maddy was ill or in distress, but oh, the things she will learn once she makes it out to the Usher estate for the funeral. In no time at all, Rick is begging Jill to stay just a little longer than she had planned because it’s so hard to get through the loss of his sister. Plus he’s finishing his latest novel and wants Jill to read it when he’s done. Sounds like a great reason to stay!

Only problem is, Rick has turned into a real freak. He has fallen prey to some freakish disease that causes him to be affected by sunlight, hyper-sensitive to people touching him, migraine-prone, and all sorts of other strangeness. He dresses up in swanky old coats, mufflers and earmuffs when he’s busy working on his new novel. He’s brooding and whiny. According to Rick, this disease is what caused Maddy’s death. But he tells Jill he has it under control with medication, which is administered to him by the creepy family servant (Beth Grant) who gives Rick his daily injections in his arms or stomach.

Of course, Jill hasn’t fully gotten over Rick and falls for his bad acting. But things go awry quickly. She’s suspicious of the hired help and becomes even more suspicious of Rick when she stumbles into a room containing a weird machine that looks like a cross between a sensory depravation tank and a tanning bed. Rick soon confesses that the tank “revitalizes” him every day. Lucky for Jill, his daily injections also cut down on his hypersensitivity so the two are soon having sex, after a couple of failed attempts sans medicine. Not sexy in the least.

And not suspenseful or “scary” in the least, either. This loose “adaptation” of Poe’s tale leaves more than a lot to be desired. The acting by Nichols and Miko is so substandard that you get the impression they were hired right off the street. Watching Austin Nichols try to emote will have you wanting to punch him in the face in no time. And Miko was obviously hired because she looked good while running around in her underwear for the majority of the movie. She’s as much of an actress as Carrot Top is a funny comedian. Plus her left nostril is strangely disproportionate to her right one, and once you notice this, it’s hard to not stare during the rest of the flick.

Only during the last 20 minutes or so of the film does anything really ramp up to a level of interest. But perhaps this is only because the viewer knows the damn thing is going to be ending soon. Not to give anything away here but the plot “twist” at the end is seen coming a million miles away. Still, when characters start dying off, there’s only a sense of tranquility that passes. At least something is finally happening in this damned movie that plays more like a crappy soap opera that isn’t even worthy of being on TV. Blah.

DVD Review

There’s not a whole lot here, and really, why should there be? You get the token director’s commentary that isn’t interesting at all, and doesn’t make the film any more watchable. Listening to Hayley Cloake ramble on about her film is akin to listening to an art student ramble on interminably. There are also four minutes’ worth of extended scenes, none of which needed to be included as they offer absolutely nothing to the already skimpy scenes they were cut from. You also get the standard trailer and a trailer gallery. Sadly, not even the trailer makes this film look entertaining, but it does sum up the thing in a nice little package so you don’t really have to waste your time watching the actual movie.

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