The Fall of the House of Usher is horror master Mike Flanagan’s latest (and perhaps final) horror adaptation for Netflix and thankfully, it proves to be one of his best. Pulling together a coherent story from the many great works of the father of gothic horror, Edgar Allen Poe, he has created a dark warning tale of power and corruption that will satisfy horror fans during spooky season.
Mike Flanagan has proven himself as a set of sure hands when adapting works from some of horror’s greats. Whether it is the work of Stephen King (Doctor Sleep), Shirley Jackson (the incredible The Haunting of Hill House), or Henry James (The Haunting of Bly Manor), he has shown his flair for keeping parts of stories that work and making changes to suit a modern TV audience. The Fall of the House of Usher is no different and is perhaps his best work yet. The series opens with Roderick Usher attending a funeral for his adult children. A series of unfortunate accidents appears to have wiped out his family and Roderick moves with the weight of the world on his shoulders. He sits down in a house that is literally falling apart with Auguste Dupin (a character Poe created and is seen as the first detective in fiction) and he begins to tell his tale, one of guilt, horror, and a confession. We then jump back and forward in time to see Roderick’s life with his ambitious sister Madeline as he grows up and takes over a pharmaceutical company and has a number of children, all who get as much money as they desire. Flanagan takes the tales of Poe and twists them into a dark, fantastical version of Succession with Roderick’s Logan Roy-like actions turning his children on each other and becoming a man who is hated but almost untouchable.
The Fall of the House of Usher must be seen as more of a tribute to Poe’s work than anything else. There are drugs, sex, acid in nightclubs (not what you’re thinking) and many things that are not very much like what you would expect from an adaptation of Poe’s work, but Flanagan keeps the mood of his work and that seeps through in every scene. It is eerie, dark, and full of suspense as the tale of guilt and corruption unfolds with a few jump scares mixed in with genuine dread as the characters fall one by one. Poe’s poems are littered throughout the episodes, some feeling more forced than others, almost as a reminder to the audience of what is being adapted but I think most watching will not mind. Flanagan’s usual recurring cast members are a delight as the members of the Usher family and Mark Hamill is a welcome addition as the gravelly-voiced lawyer/enforcer for the family. The cast in general are on fine form although it did feel as if the better characters died too early and the ones left were not as engaging and powerful. In each of his shows, Flanagan has excelled in using powerful monologues at the right time (see Midnight Mass for a perfect example). In The Fall of the House of Usher, Bruce Greenwood’s speech about what to do with lemons as Roderick Usher is the standout moment. The series is worth a watch for that alone.
Whilst not a pure adaptation of Poe’s work, The Fall of the House of Usher captures the eerie mood and dread of the master storyteller. Scary, tense, and full of great writing and acting, it is one of Mike Flanagan’s finest series on Netflix and that is saying something. This is Mike Flanagan’s horror – a family drama wearing the black feathered Raven’s coat of Poe’s work that will bring a new audience to the gothic master. It is storytelling at its best and an entertaining modern update of Poe’s work that will delight fans of horror. The Fall of the House of Usher may be Flanagan’s last work on Netflix, and it is a great way to end what has been a stunning collection of horror on the streaming service.