Halloween is here again, which means it’s time for another classic horror miniseries from Mike Flanagan and Netflix, the company that brought us The mountain house is haunted, The Ghost of Bly Manor, and Midnight Mass. In his final (woohoo!) project with Netflix, Flanagan gives us The Fall of the House of Usher. It would be unfair to say that it is based on Edgar Allan Poe’s famous short story.What Flanagan has done is quite extraordinary: it’s more like a creative remix of Poe’s best work workcreating something entirely Flanagan’s own while still conveying the essence of Poe.
(There are some spoilers below, but nothing major.)
In Poe’s original short story, an unknown narrator visits his old friend Roderick Usher, who has fallen ill along with his twin sister Madeleine, a once-prominent The last surviving member of the family. Their illness is never revealed, but Roderick appears to have gone mad, convinced that his fate is tied to Arthur’s house – and that there is an ominous crack running from the roof to the front of the house. Roderick mistakenly believed Madeleine was dead and mistakenly buried her alive. One stormy night, she reappears and takes revenge on him. When the twins die and the narrator flees in terror, the entire house splits in half and sinks into a nearby lake. This is pure gothic horror, the genre that inspired Poe to create many short stories and poems in the early 19th century.
In Flanagan’s version, Roderick Usher (Bruce Greenwood) and his twin sister Madeline (Mary McDonald) are the CEOs of Fortunato Pharmaceuticals Officer and Chief Operating Officer, this is a huge corporate empire that the two people have ruthlessly built over more than 40 years. The cornerstone of their business is a popular painkiller called Ligadone, which they claim is safe and non-addictive, despite numerous deaths from drug abuse over the years.
A police investigator named C. Auguste Dupin (Karl Rubli) spent decades trying to connect the siblings to the company’s various shady business practices, and eventually succeeded. Take the usher to court. The family is ably defended by their ruthless lawyer/fixer Arthur Gordon Pym (Mark Hamill), a.k.a. “The Pym Reaper,” and it looks like they may get away with another opioid-related crime any real consequences for the role played in the popularity.
But then Roderick’s six adult children began to die mysteriously. The two eldest sons are Frederick Usher (Henry Thomas) and Timur Usher (Samantha Sloyan), both by Roderick’s first wife Anna Born to Belle Lee (Katie Parker). And there are those lecherous Rodericks, whose fathers had four different mothers: Victorine Lafourcade (T’Nia Miller), Napoleon Usher (Rahul Kohli), Camille Rai Spanaye (Kate Siegel) and Prospero Usher (Sauriyan Sapkota).
It’s not a spoiler to say they are all doomed. We learn a lot in the first five minutes. The suspense comes from watching them inevitably lead to their respective horrific fates, each death inspired by a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. The mystery is who is ultimately to blame. Are these deaths really freak accidents, or are they linked to dark secrets from Roderick and Madeleine’s past – perhaps to do with their impoverished childhoods in a ramshackle old house; their improbability of ever becoming rich; And the mysterious woman Vina (Carla Gugino) they met in a bar on New Year’s Eve 1979?These secrets unfold through a series of flashbacks throughout House of UsherThere are eight episodes in total.