And one more thing...

There might be some personal nonsense in here, too...


Synopsis


During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.
 ~ The Fall of the House of Usher, Edgar Allan Poe


Now that is how you start a moody tale.
 And the tale isn't a particularly complicated or subtle one.  If you'd like to read it, the entire text is available online from various sources (like this one).
 I'll be using a literal interpretation.  The narrator explains clearly that the "House of Usher" represents both the mansion and the family line, so we can expect the end of one will coincide with the end of the other.  And Poe isn't too cagey about suggesting that incest played a part in the decline of the Usher line, so I'll touch on that lightly.  But for me, Usher remains what it is on its face: a tragedy of a family's end in depths of Gothic madness, a madness both congenital and environmental, and in a manner nearly but not quite supernatural.
Usher has been analyzed many times, so for theories on its symbolism, subtext, and sources of inspiration, the internet is your oyster.  But these aren't likely to feature in this work.  I'm not an expert on Poe, but I tend to disregard theories of a homoerotic undercurrent between the narrator and Usher; I believe the tenor of their relationship is a product of both the times and Poe's tendency toward overwrought writing (as evidenced in his personal correspondence).  One psychological analysis is that Roderick and Madeline are two halves of the same person, not merely twins, thus one cannot live without the other.  There have even been suggestions of vampirism, but this seems to me a contemporary post-Stoker bias.  More research on these notions and others isn't out of the question, but my goal at the outset is to tell the written story, not a suggested or hidden one.
 I've unimaginatively named the narrator Edgar.  We'll see if that makes it to the final cut.


Opening Credits (Overture)

The primary credits roll over surreal and lurid paintings, clouds of color, etc., in a true homage to the films that inspired this work.  We hear the voice of Roderick Usher reading (singing) the letter he wrote to draw his friend to the House.  As the letter concludes, the main title appears on the screen, and the image dissolves to a man on horseback as described in the story's opening paragraph.

Scene I

Upon seeing the House for the first time, Edgar is struck with a profound sense of gloom and despair, which is doubled when he sees the reflection of the scene in the tarn.  He shakes that off as mere superstition, and as he continues the approach we're treated to some exposition on the history of the Usher family tree and a bit about the man himself.
 Edgar crosses a causeway and is met by a servant (unvoiced) who takes his horse.  Just before entering the home, Edgar notes the sense of decay of the place, and a jagged crack that seems to run from top to bottom of one wall.  A valet (also unvoiced) admits him into the House proper.

Scene II

The valet leads Edgar through winding corridors and up stairways, the decor and state of which further contribute to his trepidation.  Along the way they pass a man (unvoiced) whose expression Poe describes as one "mingled...of low cunning and perplexity" (and later as "sinister").  At last they pass into a dark interior apartment where Roderick reclines.
 Roderick greets Edgar immediately and enthusiastically, but quickly becomes over-excited and tremulous, varying between extremes of deportment.  Roderick explains his condition and irrational fears, including a fear not of fear itself but that significant shock or fright will be his end.
 And he tells of the illness of his sister Madeline, and that her doctors, including the man Edgar passed earlier, remain baffled by her condition.  She seems to be wasting away and turning inward, and expressing cataleptic tendencies.  At that moment, Madeline passes in the background, apparently unaware of either man; Edgar is struck with a sense of tragedy upon seeing her, while Roderick hides his face and weeps.  Edgar offers sympathy for them both and pledges to stay as long as is needed.

Scene III

Edgar and Roderick pass the time reading from the extensive and odd Usher family library, painting, and playing music — in particular, Roderick plays a "singular perversion and amplification of the wild air of the last waltz of Von Weber" on guitar, and we hear a verse or two of "The Haunted Palace".  We learn more about his melancholy and superstitious fears of impending death.  And we are introduced to a strange painting by Roderick's hand, of a tomb.
 Roderick excuses himself and Edgar is left to contemplate the painting and his friend's mental state.  When Roderick returns, he informs Edgar succinctly that Madeline has died.

Scene IV

Roderick insists on temporarily interring Madeline in the vaults below the House, rather than in the family tombs that lie elsewhere on the grounds.  He cites the remoteness of the plots, and suggests that her doctors, unable to diagnose her condition in life, might be inclined to recover her body for study.
 Edgar and Roderick encoffin Madeline and proceed to the vaults, which were apparently used at one time as a "donjon" — the construction is odd, including copper sheathing on floors and walls, and even on a very heavy iron door that screeches when moved.  They look upon her one last time, but are uncomfortable because her color remains so life-like.  Edgar notes the striking resemblance, and Roderick explains they are twins.  Roderick's farewell to her is lengthy, and perhaps more than brotherly.  They seal the coffin and return to the apartments above.

Scene V

A week later, and Roderick has become a waking sleepwalker, roaming the House aimlessly.  He stares at nothing for hours, as though listening intently.  When he does speak, his voice is quavering, and his manner is as one who holds a ghastly secret he is forbidden to reveal.  Edgar, too, has become nervous and agitated, presumably from the combined effects of the atmosphere of the House, Madeline's death, and Roderick's state.  Much of this is seen (and heard) in flashback as Edgar sits sleepless in his room, watching and listening to a storm burgeon: strangely dense clouds and wind without rain or lightning, yet when the wind calms he can hear "low and indefinite sounds".  He also notes an eerie atmospheric effect around the estate, a dull luminosity with no obvious source.
 Roderick enters, hysterical, and throws open the windows to the storm.  Edgar tries to calm him by reading aloud from the nearest book at hand, the "Mad Trist" of Sir Launcelot Canning.  As the story unfolds, each act of violence described is met with a strange noise reminiscent of the event, and with each Roderick grows even more agitated.  The last is a clanging, reminiscent of something banging along the copper floor far below.
 Roderick is now mad, screaming that Madeline was entombed alive, and that for the last week he has heard her trying to escape.  He then claims she is just outside the door — as he approaches it, a great gust blows through the room, the doors fly open, and there stands Madeline covered in her own blood.  She collapses onto Roderick — or does she set upon him? — and they lie dead, almost embracing.
 Edgar flees the House as the strange storm rages, making it over the causeway.  A lurid zigzag light appears across his path.  He turns to see the light of a blood-red moon blazing through the now wider crack in the wall.  Another great gust of wind and the walls collapse, splitting along the crack, and the entire House slides and sinks into the tarn, disappearing from sight.  The storm dies, leaving Edgar alone with the moon and the quiet, motionless black water.