Over eight captivating episodes of The Fall of the House of Usher, his last to stream on Netflix, the writer and director Mike Flanagan gave us one of the most highly-anticipated shows of 2023, just before Halloween.
Known in part for his previous hit series Doctor Sleep, Flanagan’s newest project cements his name as a master of the horror genre, as he cleverly adapts an eponymous and haunting 1839 short story by Edgar Allan Poe, a 19th-century American writer and poet whose central place in Gothic fiction has long been assured.
A compelling blend of literature and visual artistry, the show’s intensity is palpable from the very first episode, set in a church, as a priest delivers a sermon to Roderick Usher (Bruce Greenwood), his sister Madeline (Mary McDonnell), and his granddaughter for the funeral of Roderick’s six children.
As the priest wonders in his sermon why people die, Roderick appears to know his fate and waits for destiny to finally reach him after a lengthy pursuit that took all his children. Soon after, Roderick tells us the whole story as he meets a detective.
Borrowing from the original
A black raven, which first appears at the church, represents destiny and is an ominous recurring presence. This is a nod to one of Poe’s poems about a raven who pays a midnight visit to someone mourning the loss of their lover.
In Flanagan’s hands, this interprets Poe’s idea of the inner mind and his understanding of punishment and death.
The raven appears at each character’s death, not as a cause but as a sponsor, adding to the poetry and theatre.
Set between the 1960s and the present, The Fall of the House of Usher effortlessly juggles contemporary themes with classic elements.
The main plot takes a backseat as the characters’ individual stories unfold, intertwining with the appearance and demise of each.