Mike Flanagan’s The Fall of the Home of Usher isn’t an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story. It’s as a substitute a reimagining of your entire Poe oeuvre, a resurrected corpus operis with all of the our bodies laid out on the desk, given new, feverish life contained in the framework of Roderick Usher’s legacy of doom.
Flanagan’s new Netflix collection is framed round Roderick (Bruce Greenwood) confessing his crimes, and the crimes of his household, to C. Auguste Dupin. (Dupin, performed right here by Carl Lumbly, is one other one among Poe’s well-known characters, a detective that served because the precursor to the extra recognizable Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.) On this collection, Dupin is a prosecutor—a state’s lawyer who has been a canine after Usher’s company crimes for many years. Dupin meets with Roderick on the Usher household house, and Usher, pushed by a darkish, malignant impetus, tells Dupin every thing.
The collection begins on the funeral of Roderick Usher’s youngster. It’s not specific which youngster, as they’re all lifeless. Every member of the household tree has been pruned again with vicious, brutal shears. His youngsters—six, by 5 moms—are Frederick, Tamerlane, Victorine, Napoleon, Camille, and Prospero. As their tales are re-told, from Usher to Dupin, the complete power of Flanagan’s mastery involves bear. Utilizing the body of Usher, he has crafted a narrative that stitches Poe’s work collectively like flesh on a battlefield, a grotesque, traumatic collection that pulls out massive knives and cuts itself aside again and again. By way of the obvert retellings are winks and nods to Poe’s work, a line from a poem right here, a reputation there, a metaphor in the midst of a dialog, making a pinboard of reference, beetles on backing, for eager observers to seek out as they watch the collection. The result’s a present that may be a darkly mesmerizing, erotic horror-thriller, a supernatural gothic Succession, queering the work and writing an obsessive, ritualistic efficiency.
Many will acknowledge the Ushers’ names as characters from Poe’s varied works—respectively: Metzengerstein, Tamerlane, The Untimely Burial, The Spectacles, The Murders on the Rue Morgue, and The Masque of Pink Demise. Moreover, every episode of the collection has a title taken from Poe’s work: A Midnight Dreary, The Masque of the Pink Demise, Homicide on the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat, Inform-Story Coronary heart, The Gold-Bug, The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Raven. Flanagan just isn’t hiding his reference materials as a result of he doesn’t should; the collection is so good as a result of it embraces the fabric earlier than placing it in a chokehold and forcing it into submission. Essentially the most masterful components of it are when the little twists occur—when you notice that Roderick Usher isn’t just Roderick Usher, however a personality stand-in for Poe himself. It’s an excellent maneuver that can go away viewers like me, who’ve absolutely purchased into the kayfabe, yelling on the display.
Flanagan has, like many others earlier than him, “damaged into Poe’s gallery” and made use of each single skeleton he may get his fingers on. However as a substitute of a pale affair, the result’s as if the skeletons have been his to start with, his our bodies to dig up, dislocate, and put again collectively in a grisly marionette manufacturing of Poe’s best, weirdest, freakiest, most implausible hits. It’s a present that is aware of and intimately cares for its inspirations however creates of them a menagerie of recent terror. The top consequence: wonderful, horrific little chimeras of Poe’s work which might be vividly rendered and able to tear you aside the minute they’re set free of the cage.
As Roderick relates how his household has met their downfall, one youngster at a time, he’s haunted by their corpses. There is no such thing as a thriller in regards to the supernatural right here; it’s a transparent and current hazard, a haunting, a generational curse, handed down like trauma, hand over fist in the direction of every household successor. He describes the trial towards the household’s Fortunato firm, led by Dupin himself, and the horrible spiral of insanity that each one started when one of many Ushers turned a flipcoat. Supposedly. That is the start of the tip, and money owed are coming due. As every episode relates one dying, all of the tales tie collectively, a tangled net of fucked-up childhoods, ambition, and stress, tied up in erotic disgrace and financial greed, hurtling in the direction of an grotesque, terrifying ending. The whole collection is at least a masterpiece.
Some would possibly bear in mind The Midnight Club, one other collection by Mike Flanagan that tailored not solely the titular Christopher Pike novel, but in addition mixed further brief tales from Pike’s right into a single collection. Whereas The Midnight Club didn’t fairly reside as much as its bold premise, horror hanging onto its YA strictures like ill-fitting clothes, it clearly served as a stepping stone for Flanagan. The narrative construction of The Fall of the Home of Usher is tailor-made in a approach that The Midnight Membership by no means fairly managed. The ties that bind Poe’s tales collectively really feel simpler to drag out, and Flanagan’s use of those strings to create a brand new garment feels bespoke, relatively than off the rack.
With such wealthy texts to attract from, and a grasp tactician behind the scenes, the actors are tasked with bringing these satirical caricatures to life, and each single one delivers. A lot of Flanagan’s favorites return—Kate Siegel (Camille), Samantha Sloyan (Tamerlane), Rahul Kohli (Napoleon), Katie Parker (Annabell Lee), Ruth Codd (Juno Usher), Henry Thomas (Frederick), in addition to Lumbly and Greenwood as Dupin and Roderick. There’s additionally Mark Hamill, who’s unrecognizable as Arthur Pym, and is showing for the primary time within the Mike Flanagan Cinematic Universe. All of those actors ship the artillery of Flanagan’s philosophic horror with a rat-a-tat stress that lands like gunfire on the scene of the crime. The outstanding performing, alongside the shelling of Flanagan’s dialogue, creates craters out of sentimental landings.
As Flanagan creates this story, it takes over. It’s obsessive, ritualistic, it’s imply, it is going to lower your coronary heart out and substitute it with a brand new, higher coronary heart. A contemporary coronary heart, with mesh and microchips and a pump that can make sure that your coronary heart by no means, ever, ever stops beating. The Fall of the Home of Usher is a triumphant adaptation of Poe’s works, creating an beautiful corpse out of the corpus of horror that we all know and love, however now made right into a well timed, biting satire of legacy, immortality, and all of the themes that Poe, and Flanagan, do finest.
All eight episodes of The Fall of the Home of Usher shall be out there to stream on October 12.
This piece was written throughout the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. With out the labor of the writers and actors presently on strike, the collection being coated right here wouldn’t exist.
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