Goth Chick News: In Praise of Netflix’s The Fall of the House of Usher

Goth Chick News: In Praise of Netflix’s The Fall of the House of Usher

Having fallen behind on my normal planned October activities, I am admittedly a bit late to the party when it comes to Mike Flannigan’s latest outing for Netflix, The Fall of the House of Usher, which debuted on October 12th. Flannigan is batting about 500 on the Goth Chick News stats board of directorial successes, so I was holding my breath in hopes he wouldn’t butcher one of my beloved Edgar’s properties.

On the plus side Flannigan helmed The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manner and Midnight Mass, all for Netflix and all in my top ten fav series list. On the downside, and this is a huge one for me, he is personally responsible for completely hosing the big screen version of one of my favorite Stephen King books, Doctor Sleep, for which I am hard pressed to forgive him. But perhaps Netflix is his true medium. So, with this in mind, I queued up The Fall of the House of Usher.

The premise of the tale is a timely one. In an attempt to secure their futures, the Usher twins set out to build a family pharmaceutical dynasty, growing their fortune at any cost. The cornerstone of Fortunato Pharmaceuticals is an opioid called Ligadone, which has been the cause of millions of addictions and deaths. In this way the Ushers are very much a representation of the Sackler family and their company Purdue Pharma, who aggressively marketed OxyContin to doctors.

The series opens with the Usher twins, Roderick (Bruce Greenwood, Star Trek) and Madeline (Mary McDonnell, Battlestar Galactica), along with their lawyer Arthur Pym (Mark Hamill, needs no reference), Roderick’s granddaughter Lenore (Kyliegh Curran, Doctor Sleep) and Roderick’s wife Juno (Ruth Codd, The Midnight Club) attending the funeral of Roderick’s heirs. It seems all six of them have died in the past few weeks, yet none of them under unexplained circumstances. Roderick calls a meeting with his long-time nemesis, assistant US Attorney C. Auguste Dupin (Carl Lumbly, Doctor Sleep) to allegedly confess to all their murders.

Without giving away any spoilers – I literally loved every moment of this series.

FotHoU wins in every category, starting with the casting and the acting which are both superb. I got a kick out of Henry Thomas, the little kid from E.T., showing up here as an absolute a**hole. Mark Hamill was a joy to watch. Nearly unrecognizable beneath the makeup and his character’s persona, the Usher’s ever faithful lawyer delivers a yummy twist of his own before the story concludes.

Yes, every member of the Usher family is damaged, a state which is easy to blame Roderick and Madeline, as well as Arthur. We get their in-depth stories with one episode dedicated to each of the six Usher heirs. However, a deeper darkness is revealed to be driving the fortunes of everyone in the family, and it takes all the way to episode eight to figure out if the evil is real or simply the inner demons of greed and success at any price.

What really struck me as a lifelong Edgar Allan Poe fan was not only the literal references to Poe’s works, but the number of Poe Easter eggs which became too numerous to keep track of during a first watching of the series. All of the episodes were named after Poe’s works such as, “A Midnight Dreary,” “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat.” All of the characters’ names also show up in Poe’s poetry and stories. However, Easter eggs like one of main characters’ name Verna, being an anagram for “raven,” while the company name Fortunato, is the same as a character in “The Cask of Amontillado,” made the plot dressing even more clever.

There is a lot of death in FotHoU. Like his other Netflix series, Flannigan brings the chills and scares in abundance, but without the gore. As a fan of more classic horror, I appreciate any director who can get my heart racing without relying on buckets of fake blood or gratuitous grossness. I was even able to set aside (at least for 8 episodes) the reminders of what Flannigan did to Doctor Sleep in the form of two actors who appeared there and in FotHoU. Again, without giving anything away, Lenore and DA Auguste Dupin were consistently conscience-driven, which kept you wondering if they would make it out of this nest of vipers alive.

If you don’t already subscribe, FotHoU is worth getting a Netflix trial for because once you start watching, I’m pretty sure you’ll binge it straight through. I just started it again from the beginning so I can look for more Easter eggs and already noticed that in episode one, there is a “bust of Palis” above the door. And if you haven’t read “The Raven” recently, it’s worth doing before you start watching FotHoU.

One hundred and seventy-five years after his death, Poe’s still got it.

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Bonnie McDaniel

I enjoyed this, but I didn’t think it was as good as Midnight Mass. The story felt more muddled, and I couldn’t figure out if Verna was supposed to be the devil, the personification of Death, or some Egyptian death goddess. (Although I guess that’s sort of all the same.) But the last episode….if you didn’t hate Roderick Usher’s guts before learning that he kept on siring children despite the terms of the agreement being his kids would also die (and Madeline knew that, which was why she got an IUD and never had children)–he more than earned his fate. They both did.

John ONeill


An excellent point. Though as I watched the last episode, Roderick’s siring of children seemed to be a wholly human failing. As he grew more and more powerful and successful, he began having more and more children in open defiance of the consequences. Believing that he could outrun his fate.

Though of course, as you watch him unravel in his conversations with Dupin, it becomes more and more clear that he never truly forgot the pact he made in the bar that night. He always believed he would face the consequences. And the horror of his choices comes home to him. It’s like all the famous tragedies of men of great pride and ambition (MacBeth, King Lear, Julius Cesar, all the way to Elon Musk and Twitter….)

Thomas Parker

I watch very little new/original stuff on streamers (Poker Face was the last thing, I think) and traditionalist that I am, if you summarize this one for me, my instant reaction is, “HELL no!”

But I have had one person I trust tell me I have to watch it. Actually, after today, it’s two people. So I guess I’ll try it.

John ONeill

Thomas — I watched this with Alice (who hates horror) and I thought it was one of the best things on Netflix this year. Chilling and surprising in the best ways.

Joe H.

I liked this a lot — I’d describe it as what if Succession and American Horror Story had a baby. One of the things I liked about it was that it actually seemed to stick the landing, unlike some of his other shows (Hill House in particular).

Although it did start to get … unsubtle at points, especially in the final episode where someone basically took five minutes to look directly at the camera and explain the thesis statement of the show.

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