Gothic elements can make or break a story. In Edgar Alan Poe’s “The Fall of The House of Usher,” Poe uses gothic elements in a way that makes the story feel real and horrifying. Poe was born in Boston 1809. A few months later his mother died of pneumonia. His wife them died in 1847 of hemoptysis which provided the ground work for another one of his stories. Poe died in 1849 at age of 40. (Patterson)
The main point of this story is about two siblings, Usher and Madeline, who are cursed along with their house.
Madeline is connected to the house and as she dies in the movie the house starts to crumble, and the closer she is to death the more the house starts to fall apart. Philip, who is in love with Madeline, visits the crumbling house and starts to experience supernatural events. Poe utilized real life elements like porphyria (Madeline’s disease in the story) (Patterson) to create the base story for The Fall of The House of Usher, along with numerous other gothic elements like death and decay, supernatural events, women in distress, mystery and suspense, and concealed ruins are the most used elements in this story.
The movie version of The Fall of The House of Usher starts with Philip Winthrop walking towards the Usher’s house. As soon as the movie starts one can tell how Poe used gothic elements. The House is on a state of decay there are spider-webs everywhere, fog is covering most of the ground, and there appears to be a coffin on the floor as Winthrop makes his way to the front door.
The movie does an excellent work at portraying the gothic elements Poe utilizes. Once inside the Usher’s house, Winthrop experiences his first supernatural event when the butler disappears right in front of him. Another supernatural event is the whole house shaking and cracking. Later on, we find out that their land was cursed by the plague. Thus far explaining later on events that will happen in the movie.
The movie also portrays the same scheme by the way the house is decorated, and the way the characters are dressed. Roderick’s clothes are rustic and old, and they seemed to be dirty and dusty. The house’s decoration seems to be a couple hundred years old. It appears there are spider webs everywhere, and every time the house shakes (Due to it falling apart) dust lifts from every thinkable spot. Sounds are heard throughout the movie, for example when the characters walk around and walk up the stairs.
Mystery and suspense are used throughout the whole movie. One way they display it is with the music; for example, when Philip is arriving to the house the music used makes the viewer think something is coming, and the closer he gets to the door the louder and more dramatic the music gets. Camera angles are widely used, in special occasions when the scene has to be dramatic and/or spooky, the camera angles make it seem like someone is always watching the characters. Face expressions and the way the characters move and perform actions all contribute to the gothic genre and make the movie as unique as it is. Madeline being sick, as well as always being under stress and what appears to be depressed, falls into the category of women in distress which is one of the elements in a gothic story. At the end of the movie Madeline passes away and her body is display in a coffin. Philip looks over her as he is still trying to understand what is happening with the Usher family. Finally, since the house was connected to Madeline, it finally collapses on itself as it burns. Philip is able to get out on time and he connects the dots and puts the puzzle together. As he leaves the property the same scary setting happens again. The fog sets in and the house is shown in the back as it falls apart.
As mentioned above, in order to make a good gothic story or movie, there has to contain gothic elements. In The Fall of The House of Usher a lot of the elements are widely used and well placed. The way the painting in the walls are set up, the house, the clothes worn, the music used and camera angles. Poe’s exploration and understanding, as well as personal experience shaped his stories to be engaging, interesting all throughout the story.