La chute de la maison Usher (1928)

Spicing things up with fragments from several other Poe stories, this french feature is at least as faithless to its source material as the american counterpart from the same year.

Exceedingly slow, taking almost ten lagging minutes to even arrive at the »maison« – while a burial scene is bizarrely and almost sickeningly prolonged! At times suggestive, this also stretches the concise story without adding much more than evocative imagery, mannered silent-era acting, and well-worn horror tropes. Not in my book of premature burial and »harrowing monotony«.

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Zánik domu Usheru (1980)

Uninhabited, narrated, partly abstract rumination on location, life, disease, and death. Interspersing live footage with stop motion animation to good effect, especially during the densely symbolic »tale within a tale« parts of Poe’s text.

Sparsely and calmly beautiful in an intellectual East Bloc manner, but not interesting enough for a story junkie like myself.

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Twelve years of blogging today, and still plenty of movies unseen – don’t really know if I should feel proud or embarrassed…

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Il caso Valdemar (1936)

A crude but still suggestive case study in hypnosis and death. It comes complete with a rather messy ending that definitely shocks the protagonists, if not one who has read the original short story by Edgar Allan Poe.

The long (and dramaturgically unnecessary) scene with bickering women tries the viewer’s patience, and comes across as an incomprehensible waste of precious seconds considering the brief running time. Interesting, though not in my book of dark experiments.

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The fall of the house of Usher (1928)

Expressionist and experimental silent short with a widening vertical crack tearing through the image already at the beginning – ominous foreboding, irritating spoiler, or knowing wink to the initiated?

Visually arresting in its frenzied exaggeration and overt symbolism, but otherwise more ridiculous than haunting – very music video-ish. Not in my book of strange siblings.

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The tell-tale heart (1971)

A peculiarly retro-looking attempt at »narrated silent cinema« – with a black cat thrown in for good measure! Rather true to the original text, making it too slow for film.

Is the odd look intentional or just due to technical deterioration? Not in my book of grain, blur, and extreme contrast.

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The tell-tale heart (1953)

Surrealist/modernist animation topped with elegantly classic type, discordant music, and the famous voice of James Mason reading a truncated and partially revised version of the original story.

Allegedly the first X-rated cartoon in Britain, which seems unproportionate today. Very well executed, very stuck in its time. Ultimately not in my book of madness, despite the Oscar nomination.

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The tell-tale heart (1941)

Screenplay writer Doane Hoag and director Jules Dassin takes great liberties with Edgar Allan Poe’s source material, making this a quite different tale. Fleshing out the script and inventing a basic conflict makes the protagonist’s behaviour more understandable, but also diminishes the original’s eerie atmosphere and completely ignores its obsessed focus on the old man’s eye.

Using long slow zooms and simple sound effects to good effect – but why the loom? Interesting adaption, though not in my book of the grotesque and arabesque.

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The telltale heart (1928)

Hubris and ate, indeed! A strangely fitting minimalist approach to Edgar Allan Poe’s concentrated tale, complete with odd typography, weirdly exaggerated expressionist sets, and a suggestive score.

The slow pace, awkwardly unconvincing murder scene, and stiff acting throughout makes this almost parodic, though – and what’s with the tumbling dice? Not in my fatal book of manifest madness.

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Krampus (2015)

A dysfunctional family is forced together, isolated, and besieged. Dropping Santa’s malevolent alpine counterpart in the US helped introduce him to moviegoers all over the world. However, this cheap-looking concoction of cheesy comedy and holiday horror is shallow entertainment at best and inane adventure at worst. The twist-end is so tired it seems to border on the sublime.

Too stupid for grownups, too scary for children. Less funny than Gremlins, less scary than Night of the living dead, less gory than Evil dead. Not in my book of sloppy script and lacking spirit.

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