How ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ Puts Its Twist on Edgar Allan Poe’s Classics



SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers for all eight episodes of “The Fall of the House of Usher,” now streaming on Netflix, and several works of Edgar Allan Poe that have been available to read for more than 150 years.

Mike Flanagan never met a haunted house he didn’t want to peel back the wallpaper on and see what horrors lurk beneath.

At Netflix, the writer/director has become a Halloween staple by exploring the hallowed halls of novelists Shirley Jackson (“The Haunting of Hill House”) and Henry James (“The Haunting of Bly Manor”). On the big screen, he even helmed a Stephen King-endorsed return trip to Overlook Hotel for “The Shining” sequel “Doctor Sleep.”

But for his final act at Netflix before his production company Intrepid Pictures begins an overall deal at Amazon, Flanagan gets lost in a different type of literary labyrinth –– the mind of Edgar Allan Poe. In “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Flanagan uses Poe’s 1839 short story to dismantle the dynasty of morally bankrupt Fortunato Pharmaceuticals CEO Roderick Usher (Bruce Greenwood), who built a legacy on his consumer’s dependence on his highly addictive opioid named Ligodone. But Flanagan doesn’t stop there: The series mines Poe’s archives for inspiration on how to gruesomely dispatch Roderick’s six children –– Frederick (Henry Thomas), Tamerlane (Samanatha Sloyvan), Victorine (T’Nia Miller), Leo (Rahul Kohli), Camille (Kate Siegel) and Perry (Sauriyan Sapkota). The line of succession is severed by fate in the form of a mysterious shapeshifting harbinger named Verna (Carla Gugino), with whom a young Roderick and his sister Madeline (Mary McDonnell) made a deal for boundless success in exchange for the lives of his eventual offspring.

Each episode is named for the Poe story that serves as its narrative spine, but none are to-the-letter adaptations. Instead, Flanagan filters this modern take on the toxicity of power and the persistence of karma through Poe’s creations, offering a sort of Sackler-esque family slaughterfest dressed up as a greatest hits homage to the master of the macabre.

Whether you know Poe or not, here’s how “The Fall of the House of Usher” faithfully adapts –– and sinisterly subverts –– his classics.


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