Return to the House of Usher
First-time feature director Patrick Picard brings a new take to one of the best-known stories of Edgar Allan Poe— “The Fall of the House of Usher”. “The Bloodhound” is is slow-burner horror-thriller.
Francis (Liam Aiken), a dispossessed young man, is summoned to the secluded home of his wealthy childhood friend, JP Luret (Joe Adler), who is suffering from a mysterious illness. Upon his arrival, Francis realizes that JP and his twin sister Vivian (Annalise Basso) are the sole surviving members of the privileged Luret family, whose legacy has been one of depression and self-destruction, and the only occupants of their family estate. As the old friends reconnect, a number of inexplicable incidents begin to occur within the house, and Francis finds himself drawn into a world of malaise and despair, where an act of betrayal might provide his only way out
The film features remarkable performances from its lead actors. We are taken on a journey exploring themes that are relevant to today— the desire for emotional connection, the perils of social isolation and the fragility of mental health. The film explores themes of warped family dynamics, fatalism and isolation, though by coming at it in an ultra-modern location with a low-exposition, dialogue-lite story.
Francis was a bit upset by the front door standing wide open when he arrived but that passes when he is reunited with J.P. As they talk, it’s revealed that these two haven’t seen each other in a decade. J. P. reached out in a fit of loneliness; he seems to be suffering from various neuroses, alongside with his formerly-unseen twin sister, Vivian. If anything, J. P. explains, Vivian is even worse. It’s a strange set-up, but Francis agrees to stay.
It’s quite a house with vast, minimalist space and it soon has an impact on Francis which makes him feel as disorientated as his companion seems to be. J. P. seems to encourage confusion, but then again, it’s never truly made clear whether the house does have some sort of life beyond itself which has an impact on its residents. Events take a turn when J. P. reveals that he’s had all of Francis’s worldly possessions brought out of storage and to the house, without being asked to do it. The two men’s relationship seems to grow more off-key, with more questions than answers, and it’s unclear who’s duping who; meanwhile, Vivian remains an unseen, intangible presence in this place.
Hints such as the symbolism of the bloodhound are quite easily explained away in the end, whereas the conversations between Francis and J. P. never seem to reveal very much at all. There’s nothing naturalistic about the way they talk and what they say is. I wonder if Picard was going for the kind of stylized conversation s. Probably the film’s most interesting aspect is in how it questions whether a person has access to everything they could ever need and can ever again be as cut like the Ushers. We see here that they can— J.P.’s reasons for never leaving the house come off at least partly from the horrors that he hears on the news; he talks a few times about ‘connectivity’, even though he eschews it. We never see anyone here accessing the internet or similar, but it’s clearly there.
This is primarily a dour mood piece filled with atmosphere and tension. From the first moment we enter the house, the air is heavy with dread and despair. The isolated setting serves to further these feelings and all the elements combine to create an uncomfortable and unsettling watch. The sense of gloom is perpetuated by Picard’s choice of color with the visuals consisting of muted greys, greens, and browns. These tones are reflected within the costumes and these create an echo chamber that amplifies the creepy ambience.
The story is an interwoven and tangled web of lies, half-truths, and intrigue that offers the young cast a great amount of material to sink their teeth into. Now in 2021, the toll that isolation can take on mental health is understood better than ever before. “The Fall Of The House Of Usher” was one of the first works to explore this conjunction from a modern perspective.
While the frame of the story remains, the names have been changed. Picard finds the crux of the story in the relationship between the two men. This brings the queer subtext of the story into the open, though Francis avoids acknowledging it. It also intensifies the sense that Jean Paul’s account cannot be trusted, and likewise the air of uncertainty about Vivian’s supposed ill health.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Brand new audio commentary by director Patrick Picard and editor David Scorca
Four experimental short films by director Patrick Picard: bad dream, the muffled hammerfall in action, the mosaic code and wiggleworm
On the Trail of The Bloodhound: Behind the Scenes of a Modern Chiller, exclusive 45-minute making-of featurette
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anton Bitel