The Fall of the House of Usher is yet another magnificent Netflix series from Mike Flanagan, who proves he’s the master of horror television.
Mike Flanagan has been dominating the horror television space ever since The Haunting of Hill House. His latest effort, The Fall of the House of Usher is his most ambitious yet, and Flanagan uses this gigantic story to create one of his best series yet. Based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher follows Usher siblings Roderick (Bruce Greenwood) and Madeline (Mary McDonnell) who are among the richest families in the country due to their company, Fortunato Pharmaceuticals. When all of Roderick’s children start dying mysteriously and rapidly, the siblings have to look into the past to see if something they did caused this.
Easily one of my favorite parts of this series is how genuinely thrilling each episode is. There is understandably a lot of exposition in the first episode, but once people start dying, it gets really good really fast. From the start, we know who will die, but we don’t know how or in what order everything will happen. This creates a suspenseful atmosphere and makes the viewing experience extremely engaging. Every reveal is entirely unexpected, and it’s a lot of fun to try and how everything will play out by the end of each episode.
The majority of the series works almost as a character study for each sibling. We get a peek into their lives, and then we find out how they meet their demise. While this structure works to tell the best story, getting to know these characters so well drains all the sympathy out of them. Due to their immense wealth, most of them end up being pretty terrible people. In horror, most of the time we feel scared because we care about what is happening to the character and we want to see them make it out okay. In The Fall of the House of Usher, this isn’t the case, but the series still ends up being scary. This is a huge testament to Mike Flanagan, whose control of the show’s dark and mysterious tone makes almost every minute feel uneasy so that the audience is constantly caught off guard.
Even though there is only a single likable character in The Fall of the House of Usher, most of these despicable characters let the actors portraying them give all-around great performances. Kate Siegel is scene-stealing as Camille, one of the most despicable siblings. While Siegel gives a more comedic turn, both Samantha Sloyan and Willa Fitzgerald carry the dramatic performances as Tamerlane and the young Madeline respectively. Even with these few supporting actors excelling, this is Carla Gugino’s show at the end of the day. She dominates the screen in a way that I’ve never seen in her career thus far. Her role is extremely versatile, and Gugino makes the absolute most of it.
If I were to criticize one aspect of The Fall of the House of Usher, it would be how this show is yet another piece of media that is criticizing the rich. Unfortunately, there is nothing new added to the discussion of wealth. In a time where there are such bold films and shows criticizing the wealthy, such as The White Lotus or Triangle of Sadness, there is nothing new to add to this conversation. While any commentary is definitely not the point of the show, the fact that there is still a “the rich are terrible people” argument makes me wonder if there was a more creative approach to these characters.
Overall, The Fall of the House of Usher is a perfect addition to Mike Flanagan’s collection of horror series. From the production design to the sound work, this is one of the best shows Netflix has produced for adult audiences. I will absolutely be adding this to my collection of Halloween rewatches, and I believe a lot of people will as well. Mike Flanagan has blessed us with a new series to scare audiences for five years straight, so let’s hope he continues to create these wildly original shows for years to come.
The Fall of the House of Usher is now streaming globally on Netflix. Read our list of Mike Flanagan’s Netflix horror series ranked from worst to best!