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Flanagan pulls out all the stops in his last Netflix show, exploring well-trod territory and managing to bring something new to the table.

For The Fall of the House of Usher, Netflix’s always-reliable genre auteur Mike Flanagan explores the rich but heavily mined territory of Edgar Allan Poe and breathes new life into familiar stories in the way only he can.

The framework story is the titular “The Fall of the House of Usher,” but Flanagan and company infuse the narrative with fresh spins on other Poe favorites, including “The Raven,” “Annabel Lee,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” and “The Pit and the Pendulum.”

These beloved tales and more come together to create a grossly campy gothic offering that might be Flanagan at his most gleefully fun and inventively brutal.

Roderick (Bruce Greenwood) and Madeline Usher (Mary McDonnell) grew from humble beginnings into bloodthirsty pharmaceutical magnates peddling opioids to the masses. Now, it is time for their comeuppance.

Roderick’s six children are dead, the heirs to his crumbling empire. All that Roderick has left is the truth behind his rise from bastard son to disgraced CEO.

The house of Usher is falling quickly, and Roderick desperately calls police investigator C. Auguste Dupin to confess his decades of sins. 

Many will compare this Flanagan offering to giallo, and while there is merit there, The Fall of the House of Usher owes much more to the Italian gothic.

It has tension, melodrama, absurdity, and heart and is flavored akin to The Blancheville Monster and Lady Morgan’s Vengeance.

The atmosphere and storyline cause one to think Barbara Steele could appear at any moment. She doesn’t, but it all feels beloved and familiar to those who frequently consume Italian gothic horror. This one is for the Mario Bava fans, both giallo and gothic. 

Flanagan manages to switch up many of his tried and true methods in the writers’ room.

The story is paced quicker and leaves no time for the idea of slow burn. Not to mention, his famous monologues are cut much shorter. (This is one of my complaints because I am a Flanagan monologue apologist, and I missed the musings and catharsis that come with his epic monologues, but we can’t always have everything we want.)

Those who are expecting fare like The Haunting series or Midnight Mass might be disappointed in Usher, but it is well worth the watch to see Flanagan at play and remind us that he can master different storytelling devices and types of horror.

Those expecting fare like THE HAUNTING series or MIDNIGHT MASS might be disappointed in USHER but it is worth it to see Flanagan remind us how well he can master different storytelling devices and types of horror. Share on X

Flanagan’s lovingly assembled staff of writers are at the top of their game as well, with familiar collaborators including Jamie Flanagan, Dani Parker, and Rebecca Klingel. 

Long-time collaborators Flanagan and Michael Fimognari make a seamless directorial team.

For those that aren’t as familiar with the Flanagan oeuvre, Fimognari is the cinematographer or director of photography for The Midnight Club, Midnight Mass, The Haunting of Hill House, Gerald’s Game, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and Before I Wake. He previously directed episodes of The Midnight Club. The Fall of the House of Usher proves that this creative partnership is pure gold and that the duo intuitively understand one another on an enviable level. 

It’s no surprise that the acting is just as good as the writing and directing.

The Fall of the House of Usher

Flanagan has an eye for underrated talent and selects an absolute bumper crop of dynamic actors for his works.

It’s also no surprise that one of the show’s biggest standouts is Carla Gugino as the morally gray Verna. She brings a sense of pathos to a character that could easily have none.

Another clear standout is Bruce Greenwood as Roderick. Greenwood may be at his best here, giving a nuanced performance full of palpable grief and regret.

The show’s emotional core is held together by Katie Parker as Annabel Lee Usher, Kyliegh Curran as Lenore Usher, and Ruth Codd as Juno Usher. Their roles might be smaller in comparison to others, but their impact is immense.

Malcolm Goodwin and Carl Lumbly are fantastic in their shared role as C. Auguste Dupin. As a long-time fan of Flanagan, I seriously hope Goodwin becomes a staple.

T’nia Miller and Samantha Sloyan are absolutely heartbreaking as Victorine LaFourcade and Tamerlane Usher, respectively.

Meanwhile, Rahul Kohli, Kate Siegel, and Henry Thomas get to have the times of their lives playing deliciously horrific and spoiled characters. 

On a technical level, Usher is a treat for the senses.

The lighting on this show is fantastic, as is the production design.

Color abounds and helps tell the story of the Ushers and their downfall. This looks and feels like the most lavish of Flanagan’s Netflix series. It has more locations and set pieces and is less contained. It’s lush and hedonistic and adds to the show’s thematic backbone perfectly.

It’s visually indulgent in a way that builds world and character without becoming crass and cheap. 

Those who love body horror and inventive kills will be in heaven as the Usher body count racks up beautifully. 

Overall, The Fall of the House of Usher won’t be for everyone and might not please some Flanagan faithful, but it is a worthwhile and fun ride.

Allow the madcap magic of Poe to wash over you and pull you into Flanagan at his grossest and goriest.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 4
The Fall of the House of Usher will be streaming exclusively on Netflix on October 12, 2023.

The Fall of the House of Usher

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