Five of Edgar Allan Poe’s horror stories receive an animated treatment in Extraordinary Tales. Threaded by a series of morbid conversations between a crow, representing Poe, and graveyard statues, representing Death, each story in Extraordinary Tales is imagined in a different visual style. “The Fall of the House of Usher” is the weakest of these, with a cheap-looking 3D-animated patina. Narrated by Christopher Lee, “Usher” is also the most truncated of the adaptations, missing some of the digressions—a reading of The Mad Tryst and a recital of “The Haunted Palace”—that enriched this short story. Four of the five animated shorts rely heavily on the febrile, overwritten-to-our-modern-ears language of Poe’s prose; “The Tell-Tale Heart,” narrated eerily by Bela Lugosi, animated in a sparse graphic novel style, is the most effective of these. Saving the best for last, Extraordinary Tales’s version of “The Masque of the Red Death” trades narration for what cinema does best: atmosphere. Animated in a 2D rosy wash, “Red Death” is a mesmeric trip through a bacchanal inside a palace, ultimately demonstrating that death is democratic.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White