Netflix have struck gold once again with horror maestro Mike Flanagan delivering on his latest project The Fall of the House of Usher. The horror guru has produced many hit shows for the streaming giant and his latest in no exception, which will make the fact he’s leaving them for Amazon Studios sting even more.
Albeit a loose adaptation of the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Flanagan has form when it comes to adapting some beloved stories, from the hugely successful Shirley Jackson novel The Haunting of Hill House and Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw which was adapted into The Haunting of Bly Manor.
Flanagan’s House of Usher takes the two characters central to Poe’s story and brings them into a modern world. Roderick Usher (Bruce Greenwood) & Madeline Usher (Mary McDonnell) are twins at the forefront of a pharmaceutical empire. Their family has a significant social standing and vast wealth. Edgar Allan Poe’s version of Roderick Usher is a dissipated old man living alone in his mansion. Flanagan’s story revolves around conversations between prosecutor Auguste Dupin (Carl Lumbly) and Roderick Usher, as Usher sits alone in his crumbling mansion, in what looks like a tribute to Poe’s version. In the aftermath of Roddick’s family tragedy the pair discuss Roderick’s ‘confessions’ and his rise & fall, as the series flashes back and forth between their conversation, the young Roderick Usher’s (Zach Gilford) rise up the ranks of Fortunado Industries and his six children in the present day.
Present day Roderick Usher is the patriarch of a billion-dollar pharmaceutical empire and the CEO of Fortunado Industries. He made his fortune on the back of an opioid painkiller, portrayed in a similar fashion as OxyContin and the family are facing a heap of legal battles.
Usher has six children from five different mothers and the series wastes no time in telling us immediately that all six of his children have died recently, leaving him, his twin sister Madeline, his granddaughter, Lenore (Kyliegh Curran) and his new, very young bride Juno (Ruth Codd). The family are then guided by their legal counselor Arthur Pym, played by an almost unrecognizable Mark Hamill.
The family are haunted by a mysterious woman that is seen in Roderick & Madeline’s past. They meet her for the first time in a bar on New Year’s Eve in 1979. She however turns up in the present day as a supernatural torment to Roderick and his children, as a reckoning for his actions. Those actions are largely kept a secret for the majority of the show, but slowly the layers of Roderick & Madeline’s wrongdoings are peeled away.
That mystery woman is Verna played by Carla Gugino, she produces a devilishly spooky performance. It’s up there with some of her best, she delivers some epic monologues as she stalks the Usher family members.
The six Usher children are a mix of damaged, immoral and downright degenerate people. They are Tamerlane “Tammy” (Samantha Sloyan) and Frederick (Henry Thomas) the eldest and only Usher heirs born in wedlock. Media executive and sex addict Camille (Kate Siegel), heart surgeon Victorine (T’Nia Miller), video game developer and drug addict Napoleon “Leo” (Rahul Kohli) and the youngest, spoilt brat Prospero (Sauriyan Sapkota).
The Haunting of Hill House has set the bar for Mike Flanagan and The Fall of the House of Usher meets those high standards, with beautiful cinematography from Michael Fimognari, setting the tone and atmosphere of the show, like Hill House, it looks and feels top quality.
House of Usher has the same suspenseful build up to its scares but with the added edge of being much gorier, culminating a stronger sense of tension. And with the depravity of some of the characters, you will gladly watch them be dispatched in brutal fashion.
The acting is top notch, we of course see the same faces in the majority of Flanagan’s works but that only adds to the chemistry of the cast, they all put in solid performances. It is however the performances of Bruce Greenwood & Carla Gugino that are the standout, both are exceptional.
Mike Flanagan bows out from Netflix on top form, his contemporary imagining’s on classic stories are his signature and going forward that will be Amazon’s gain, we look forward to seeing what he can do with them.
You can watch all 8 episodes of The Fall of the House of Usher on Netflix now.