The Fall of the House of Usher
After putting his spin on classic works by Shirley Jackson and Henry James, Mike Flannagan turns his attention to the macabre horror of Edgar Allan Poe in The Fall of the House of Usher. Dialling up the tension substantially from the moderately underwhelming The Midnight Club, Flannagan ends his tenure with Netflix on a triumphant high as he explores themes of grief, trauma and the social elite to spine-chilling effect.
The show’s narrative is framed around a brilliantly acted conversation between investigator Auguste Dupin (Carl Lumly) and the Usher family patriarch (Bruce Greenwood). After a series of freak accidents wipe out all his adult children within a short space of time, he wishes to divulge the full story about what happened. Shapes move in the darkness in the background, noises are heard coming from the basement (supposedly Usher’s sister), and the storyteller is met with horrifying visions. There’s an inescapable sense that something isn’t right in this house. It’s this gloomy mystery that acts as the central hook for the grizzly tale that’s to come.
Flashing back two weeks to before the tragedies begin, the show introduces viewers to the rest of the Usher clan, most of whom are played spectacularly well by some of Flanagan’s regular stars, with Kate Siegel’s domineering Camille and Rahul Kohli as hedonistic video game publisher Neo being notable highlights. Mark Hamill joins the cast as cutthroat lawyer Arthur Pym alongside Doctor Sleep’s Kyliegh Curran to make welcome new additions to the star-studded ensemble.
Much like the showrunner’s other works, this show is brimming with palpable dread and tension. Flanagan’s method of confronting viewers with the terror directly is still as effective as ever, with there being plenty of moments that will catch them by surprise. The scares come at a faster pace this time around, with some (especially when it comes to a certain cat) verging upon jump-scare territory. More than making up for the small handful of unimaginative scares, though, is some truly grotesque imagery that’s far more gruesome than anything else seen in Flanagan’s previous Netflix shows.
There may be some rough patches here and there, but The Fall of the House of Usher encapsulates everything that’s made Flannagan’s Netflix outings the undisputed champions of terror during the spooky season.
The Fall of the House of Usher is released on Netflix on 12th October 2023.
Watch the trailer for The Fall of the House of Usher here: