"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." - Toni Morrison
"Don't forget - no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell." - Charles de Lint

08 April, 2023

Fall of the House of Usher (1979) -- How Not to Adapt a Story

One of those "it's so bad, it's good" things that I go back to again and again. In reference to this post's title, yes -- this is how not to adapt a story, especially one that's perfect as it is. But Hollywood does love to reinvent the wheel, it does. Too bad it misses more than it hits the mark.



Sin number one: expand the story by adding unnecessary characters such as Jennifer (the wife), who does absolutely nothing of any use in the adaptation other than to be a burden to everyone. She screams, faints, screams some more, and almost dies. She is absolutely awful, and that's being kind. 

Sin number two: give a reason behind the Usher family curse like Satanism. The Usher illness that curses the bloodline to a pretty terrible end without a clear explanation as to why this is happening is one of the beauties of Poe's work. The mystery and the inevitable trajectory of a dying family add to the horror of the plot (plus it stirs pity in the reader since it's again proof that one can't choose one's family they're born into). 

Sin number three: turn Madeline into a murderous monster (because Satanism). Rather than a pitiable creeping, silent shadow of a woman who flits from room to room like a ghost, she's turned into a rampaging madwoman who threatens everyone around her whenever she "escapes" her room (very Jane Eyre-esque, I'd like to add). And she gets to arm herself with a Medieval flail. 

That said, I suppose that'd be a plus, and I wouldn't blame her one bit if my quiet home were suddenly invaded by a stranger and his screaming, swooning wife.

The one thing the writers added that I actually liked was the bloody tears. Now that's creepy.

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