Wow. I really had no idea what this was when I watched it. I just found it cruising around on Netflix. I was very impressed by the art style, the narrators and, really, everything about it.
It begins with Poe as a Raven, speaking with an unidentified female. Eventually we learn that it is Death, herself. The voices are great. Poe sounds very good. I don’t know who Stephen Hughes is but he handles Poe’s voice well, if slightly modern sounding. Death’s voice is beautiful. And I mean beautiful. It’s rich and full with a slight teasing note to it. Imagine my surprise when I looked it up to find out Death is voiced by author Cornelia Funke. Now I didn’t recognize the name but her credits list her as the author of Thief Lord, Inkheart, and Dragon Rider. I have never read them but if you’ve been on Goodreads lately you’re bound to come across mention of them. I really hope she narrates her own audiobooks. It would be a shame for such an excellent voice to never be used.
The wrap-around portion is Poe and Death chatting, mostly. She pointing out, and he denying, his obsession with death, with slight intros to the coming tale. Speaking of which…
The Fall of the House of Usher:
The visuals here are great. Lots of autumnal imagery, leaves, and muted colors. Slightly washed out purples, blues, greens with bits of rust red predominate. The people look slightly clay-like in their design but not claymation. I’m probably describing it incorrectly but that’s how it struck me. The main figures of Roderick Usher and his sister are very tall and angular compared to the friend, who is slightly rounder and shorter. I can’t help but wonder if they were going for the narrator being spiritually, mentally and physically robust and healthy while in contrast the Ushers are anemic and unhealthy in every way. I can’t help but wonder if Guillermo del Toro drew on this tale and visual aesthetic for Crimson Peak. Not a far stretch as you’ll see. The story seems similar and the Sharpes even look very much like the animated characters. And Christopher Lee narrates. That’s a no-brainer awesome. Sir Christopher Lee certainly had a very recognizable, very charismatic voice and presence.If he were still alive I doubt he would really need my praise but his rich, commanding voice is perfect for the melodramatic tone of the segment. He also voices the two characters very distinctly from each other.
The Tell-Tale Heart:
A drastically different art style from the first segment. It is in black and white, starkly drawn with a splash of color on only two scenes. It fits the mood of The Tell-Tale Heart well. It is also narrated by Bela Lugosi which, I’ll admit, confused me t first. I realized that they must have used an old recording of Lugosi reading the story. From here: http://www.openculture.com/2015/10/hear-edgar-allan-poes-the-tell-tale-heart-read-by-bela-lugosi-star-of-legendary-horror-films-1946.html I got the information that it was in probability recorded for his agent to send around to clients interested in booking Mr. Lugosi’s solo performance in which an enactment of the tale was featured.
The record scratches lend a lot to the eeriness of the narration. I’m very glad they chose not to try to make a ‘clean’ version. I don’t think it would have had half the effect it does. Again, it’s hardly necessary to point out the brilliance of the narration. The voice steadily culminates in an ending that even had me on the edge of my seat. Even knowing how the story ended the magic of the animation and narration work to heighten your nerves.
The Facts in the Case M. Valdemar:
Love the comic book style of visuals. And I love that they made the main character in the image of Vincent Price who starred in several adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe’s works. Again, the narration is excellent, done by Julian Sands. I love his voice.
The Pit and the Pendulum:
Guillermo del Toro narrates this tale and it’s perfect. Especially since The Pit and the Pendulum takes place during the Spanish Inquisition. One of Poe’s tales that actually end on a more cheerful note. I can’t say the art style particularly stands out but it is still very nice. This is the only segment I couldn’t find a still for, unfortunately.
The Masque of the Red Death:
This one, the art style, I can’t describe it. It’s surreal. It’s almost Disney-ish but with a demonic twist. I love the way it was done. It almost seems to be mocking Disney in a way. There is no narrator just the camera as it sweeps through Prince Prospero’s Palace showing the debauched nobility. And it is skin-crawling. The only voices are the voice of the Princess and Prince Prospero. Prospero, incidentally, is voiced by Roger Corman. Roger Corman produced and directed a number of Poe adaptations, most of which Vincent Price starred in. It’s a nice tribute.
The sweep through the palace is perfectly done. It reveals just enough but not too much (meaning nudity and sex).
All in all I would certainly recommend this but for older children. It can be unsettling in parts. I would love to see an adaptation of Lovecraft in this style.