Series Review: The Fall of the House of Usher

Estimated read time 6 min read

Death doesn’t knock on people’s doors and ask permission for entry. It doesn’t leave when you dismiss it. Death lingers, death is always here, and death is not a guest. Death is a promise. It is a right to be received by every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve.

Yousef Alshammari

Synopsis

After burying the last of his children, the powerful and corrupt CEO of Fortunato Pharmaceuticals invites a US Attorney who has spent years trying to bring him to justice to his childhood home. Haunted by the ghosts of his dead children and his past mistakes, Roderick Usher unveils his darkest secrets and the reason behind his family’s gruesome deaths.  

This Netflix limited series is split into different timelines—the past, which chronicles the rise of the Usher twins to power (1953-1980). The two weeks preceding the deaths of his family in 2023). And the present day, where Roderick explains everything to the attorney (Auguste Dupin).

The story is filled with the usual creepy imagery that’s a classic Mike Flanagan move, with effective jumpscares, tension, and complex human emotions. 

Before going any further, let’s take a moment to talk about the director and his interesting take on horror stories. 

The face of death

The Mike Flanagan Universe

This piece would be my second Mike Flanagan review after Midnight Mass. Weirdly, some people rate Midnight Mass as one of his best works. It could have been, but the plot got too convoluted for its good. 

I’m a big fan of his work, and I love how he incorporates deep questions and ideals into his horror series. As a result, you’re not just watching your run-of-the-mill horror movie with a basic plot of murder, death, or basic killers. What you get is deep existential-crisis-type questions and characters that stick with you long after you’re done watching.   

See also  Top 5 Traditional Fantasy Tropes

Another reason I enjoy watching his shows is because Mike Flanagan found a way to avoid Netflix’s incessant cancellation of series after one season in a brilliant way. He writes and directs several limited series that feature most of the same actors and fall under the horror spectrum. 

Collectively, these shows feel like an anthology series and allow Flanagan to keep telling his stories without worrying about Netflix canceling them in their prime. And now that his Netflix contract is up, we, the audience, can be assured that he will replicate this winning formula with Amazon Prime (since he signed a new contract with them). 

Okay, back to the show. 

Camille slaying as usual.

The Plot

The Fall of the House of Usher is loosely adapted from Edgar Allan Poe’s 1840 short story of the same title. This Gothic horror drama, spanning eight hour-long episodes, focuses on the wealthy Usher family and how they all meet their demise within two weeks. 

If you’re familiar with Poe’s famous poems, many of them are sprinkled at regular intervals during the series, often in character monologues or reflections. Even though it had the potential to become tedious and too on-the-nose, the poems worked for the show’s tone. 

The show’s first episode already tells you that most—if not all of these characters will die. We already know this, but the whole point of the story is discovering what led to their deaths and how they died. The feeling that something terrible is about to happen makes for a compelling watch.  

See also  Deceived By The Gargoyles (Monstrous Matches #2) by Lilian Lark

As the episodes progress, we discover that their father, Roderick Usher, is responsible for the tragic deaths of his children. Another thing we also learn is that his company played a significant role in the opioid crisis, so Roderick’s hands are far from clean. He’s done terrible things to get to where he is now. 

Favorite Lines/Scenes 

While the show was chockful of memorable lines and quotes, these two stuck with me the most because they reflect the state of the world. 

First Scene

Roderick: When life hands you lemons…

Dupin: Make lemonades?

Roderick: No. You roll out a multimedia campaign to convince people lemons are incredibly scarce. Which only works if you stockpile lemons, control the supply, and then create a media blitz. 

What made the whole monologue fun to watch was Dupin’s reaction in the end (you could see the horror on his face, realizing just how much of an evil capitalist Roderick is). 

Second Scene

Madeline: So all these hypotheticals, “Never Have I Ever,” Fuck Marry Kill,” What would you do for a Klondike Bar?” “Devil at the Crossroads?” It’s all just fairytales. Magic beans and beanstalks, bedtime stories for kids. The real world is Darwinian. Survival, chaos, power. Leverage. 

Verna: You’re a killer, aren’t you? Both of you. A couple of real killers.

The Cast

The Fall of the House of Usher boasts a stellar cast from Flanagan’s cineverse regulars like Kate Siegel (Camille L’Espanaye), Henry Thomas (Fredrick Usher), Samantha Sloyan (Tamerlane Usher), Rahul Kohli (Napoleon Usher), T’Nia Miller (Victorine LaFourcade), Zach Gilford (young Roderick), and Carla Gugino (Verna/The Raven/Death). 

You’d recognize them from Flanagan’s other series like The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Midnight Mass, and most recently, The Midnight Club. Victoria Pedretti from the Haunting series (Hill House and Bly Manor) is the only notable absence. 

See also  Movie Review: The Black Book

Other newcomers to the Flanagan universe include Bruce Greenwood (Roderick Usher), Carl Lumbly (Auguste Dupin), Mary McDonnell (Madeline Usher), and Willa Fitzgerald (young Madeline).  

Willa Fitzgerald, as a young Madeline Usher, portrays the role excellently and makes you admire and hate the character all at once. 

Final Thoughts

The last supper

The fall of the house of Usher is an ode to death. It is a beautifully written story about how ambition and greed can alter generations. It also shows us that while death comes for everyone, our actions could determine how we die—gruesomely or peacefully. I liked that part about it. 

Also, Madeline getting an IUD showed her smarts in not wanting any future kids to suffer from her decisions. 

Was Madeline a terrible character? Yes! But it doesn’t compare to Roderick having many kids to prolong the events leading to his death. Was it a conscious decision on his part? I’m not entirely sure. 

Even though she acted cold and calculating most of the time, Madeline’s refusal to have kids revealed a self-imposed prevention of future pain, making her brother’s selfish actions quite despicable. And we’re not even talking about how detached he was from them.  

I enjoyed The Fall of the House of Usher, but my only gripe was that they killed off the most intriguing characters quite early (Camille and Perry). I wished the first three siblings to die were saved for later since they were the most fun of the six Usher kids. But then again, death doesn’t play favorites. 

Chioma Ahamefule

Chioma is a professional content writer who writes everything from tech reviews, B2B/B2C marketing content, and blog posts for websites and businesses. She also does fiction and non-fictional content once in a while.
She loves reading Fantasy, YA, Thriller, and Chick-Lit.
She has an avid fascination with tech and how it improves our daily lives.
In her free time, she binges TV shows and movies, reads fan-fiction if they don’t end the way she wanted them to, and writes movie reviews about the best and crappiest ones.

You May Also Like

More From Author