As part of my movie watching for TGGeeks I’ve decided to take a look at movies for the LGBTQ community that have probably flown under most people’s radar, and this time I’m going to examine the 2008 gay-horror movie, House of Usher.
Mysterious happenings are at the Usher House. Good looking men are disappearing. Victor Reynolds rides up to see his oldest friend Roderick Usher and answer for his call for help. Roderick’s sister Madeline is very sick. Roderick isn’t well either and can’t leave the house. The Usher House itself is falling apart. Will Roderick’s young manservant give the help that Victor is looking for? What is the nature of these nightmares that Victor is having? Can Victor discover the secret of the Usher House? And has director David DeCoteau managed to break his losing streak with bad movies or has he delivered another stinker?
Once again, DeCoteau is going to the Poe well only this time he gives us a story that actually bears a slight resemblance to Poe’s original work The Fall of the House of Usher. There are some changes that DeCoteau had to add by making the narrator (who in the original story is the friend to Roderick) separate from Victor, and he made both Roderick and Victor gay and they had been in a romantic relationship when they were younger. Perhaps this is why I was surprised to not hate this movie. It is by no means a good movie. However, given DeCoteau’s track record thus far with both Body Blow and The Raven, I expected House of Usher to be so bad that I would want to take a hammer to my TV. Instead, I saw a movie that had pathetically poor production values and acting so stiff that the garden statues delivered more Oscar-worthy performances. Even the love scene between Roderick and Victor was so bad that it brought me close to hysterics, and the storyline with sister Madeline didn’t present any notion that she was sick as to suffer from catalepsy. Instead, she kept trying to tell Roderick that he needed to “take” Victor for the sake of the house, suggesting that the house itself was some sort of soul-sucking entity that was draining the life out of both Roderick and Madeline. What kept the story going was the mystery of the house and if Victor would successfully make his escape. If it was not for these two elements I fear that House of Usher would have failed as badly, if not worse, than The Raven.
As I mentioned earlier, the acting in this movie was practically non-existent. Unlike The Raven that had seriously bad acting, House of Usher has virtually no acting. Frank Mentier as Roderick is incapable of any facial expressions. Even when Victor tells Roderick that he is not looking well, the only thing Mentier can show is boredom. If I had to live with a boring acting performance like that I would look unwell too. He doesn’t have many acting credits, which might be considered a blessing in disguise. Michael Cardelle as Victor is only marginally better, but he too has a very unexpressive face. Whether he’s having nightmares about gorgeous handymen fondling his body, or simply trying to act scared as the camera violently shakes as it simulates the house acting up, Cardelle doesn’t come off as a heroic character. He’s just another pretty boy for the camera to devour.
One unusual surprise came at the end of the movie. As with The Raven, DeCoteau threw in a twist at the end suggesting that things aren’t quite as they appeared. However, he did a much better job with the twist here that gave the movie an almost Lovecraftian take on The Wizard of Oz. In fact, it gave Cardelle probably his best acting performance in the entire movie.
For having a cast with such stiff acting that watching grass grow is more exciting, coupled with a weak attempt at trying to honor Poe’s source material with good looking guys thrown in for good measure, I give House of Usher 2 out of 5 Dead Handymen.
House of Usher can be seen on Here TV.