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House of Usher (2006)

Director: Hayley Cloake
Starring: Austin Nichols, Izabella Miko, Beth Grant, Danielle McCarthy
Rated R, 81 minutes

House of Usher is what happens when someone raised on a steady diet of The Hunger and Calvin Klein's "Obsession" ads decides to give Poe a makeover. That may sound like heaven for navel-gazers and hair stylists, but those seeking any sort of entertainment will likely chew their foot off trying to escape.

Jill Michaelson (Izabella Miko) receives a phone call informing her that her best friend from college, Maddy Usher (Danielle McCarthy), has died. Maddy and her brother Rick (who was Jill's lover) vanished from Jill's life years earlier, without any sort of goodbye. Jill decides to attend Maddy's funeral to pay her respects to her deceased friend, as well as to question Rick about their disappearance. Jill travels to the Usher mansion, located in some part of the country where the trees have no leaves and it is always overcast, where she is reunited with Rick (Austin Nichols). Rick tells Jill that Maddy had become stricken with a degenerative disease that has claimed several members of the Usher family - and that he himself was now suffering from it. Maddy and Rick left in order to spare Jill the pain of having to watch Maddy's painful demise. Rick persuades Jill to stick around awhile, to catch up on old times and to possibly rekindle their romance. Jill relents, even though the creepy housekeeper does everything she can to try and scare Jill off. As Rick's condition worsens, Jill becomes more and more wrapped up in his weird existence. Jill begins seeing what may or may not be Maddy's ghost, start questioning her sanity, and begins to unravel the mystery surrounding the cursed Usher family.

You have to wait until the last fifteen minutes or so to see anything that resembles "horror". To get there you must wade through an hour of tedium, broken only by patches of painful boredom. House of Usher seems determined to keep you from becoming too interested in its story or its characters. Poor story development and plot inconsistencies abound, though you will need to be awake to notice them. A repetitive soundtrack, monotonous dialogue delivered without any sort of enthusiasm, and a distinct lack of anything even remotely interesting happening makes this a very difficult film to watch. The worst part of it is that all of this nothing is filmed in the most obnoxiously pretentious manner possible. Faces half-onscreen, camera positioned to the far left of the focal point, you get the idea. All the showy camera work in the world will not alleviate the droning boredom of House of Usher. If they had spent half as much time trying to infuse some excitement into their film as they did coming up with "artistic" methods of camera placement, the film may have been watchable. Well, they didn't, so it's not.

The only moment worth noting is a completely ridiculous gag scene placed just before the credits roll. It does not fit in with the film's lifeless tone, and seems to have been added in after the fact. If this was a good film, I would say that the scene cheapened it. It is not a good film, so it is at least good for a laugh. I won't spoil it in case you should ever find yourself watching House of Usher, but I will say this: those Usher's - they get started young.

1.5 out of 5. 

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