Mike Flannagan’s newest limited series The Fall of the House of Usher makes a splashy debut at Fantastic Fest 2023 with a two-episode in-person premiere theatrical event.
There’s not going to be spoilers. But if you want to go in blind. I respect that. The short answer is that it’s good. Really good.
The Fall of the House of Usher is a beautiful pitch perfect literate horror that’s most certainly horror. Mike Flanagan and his writers, cast, and craftspeople have created a melding of the work of Edgar Allan Poe and the evisceration of the modern-day Elites. The result is something that is both a revisionist take on Poe’s work and a perfect word-for-word adaptation of his poetics.
Using Poe’s, The Fall of The House of Usher as its core centerpiece Flanagan and Co. built a series based on other of the writer’s work in what can only be described as a perfect summation of what makes Poe’s work so transcendent. Roderick (Bruce Greenwood) and Madeline Usher (Mary McDonnell) are now the ruthless brother and sister captains of industry selling their non-addictive pain killer to hundreds of millions through their multi-billion-dollar company, Fortunato Pharmaceuticals. Horror, sorrow, regret, greed, and all of the human folly both ugly and beautiful come to plague the Ushers and their scion as old secrets reveal themselves.
Though the cast is filled with brilliant performances the show feels like a stage for the ample and amazing talents of both Carl Lumbly and Bruce Greenwood. By the end of the first episode, the stage has been set for the faceoff between Roderick and C. Auguste Dupin (Lumbly), the State’s Attorney who has been after Roderick and his Pharma Empire for years. It is through their confrontation and Roderick’s confession in the decrepit house of his birth the story of each family member has met their end and what ties them all to Roderick and his sister Madeline.
One would want to easily call this Succession for Horror fans. What that dismisses is the work that Flanagan and Company do better than that Succession, which is never allowing you to forget how truly horrifying these characters are. Yes, we can identify with them and maybe empathize but there is a critical eye that’s sharper than any instrument of death used in the series. Flanagan uses the stage to make sure that though they are human we never forget what their wealth came at the expense of.
The Fall of the House of Usher may be Flanagan’s masterstroke. Beautiful, bloody, disturbing, intelligent and artful. Often all at the same time. The work here from top to bottom is that rare, refined brilliance that few movies let alone 8-hours of a Limited series can sustain. It does to the darkest of final moments.