Netflix’s The Fall of the House of Usher is a Masterpiece

Netflix’s The Fall of the House of Usher is a Masterpiece

The Fall of the House of Usher (Netflix, October 2023)

Mike Flanagan’s The Fall of the House of Usher is a masterpiece.

I say this having recently finished watching the final episode. And yet, a couple of episodes in, I was feeling a bit ambivalent towards the series, wondering how it could possibly sustain itself over 8 episodes.

The premise is troublesome, or at least challenging. From the beginning we know that a great many of the main characters are dead, killed in various horrific ways, and not only that but both those and the surviving characters are pretty loathsome individuals. The series, therefore, not only relies heavily on ‘this is how they died’ flashbacks, but also gives you no one to root for, which you would think lessens the shock and the tension.

But so brilliant is the script (erudite, searingly incisive and emotionally gripping), and so captivating the performances of the superb cast (with Mark Hamill as gravel-voiced, utterly ruthless family lawyer Arthur Gordon Pym the standout for me) that as a viewer you are swept along on a tide of fate and fortune that carries the Usher family inexorably through several decades.

This is a series that builds and builds, leading to an exemplary and hugely satisfying conclusion. Yes, there is an inevitability to the Usher family’s spectacular fall, but along the way we are treated to one of the most articulate and relevant comments on human nature and modern society that I think I’ve ever seen.

Masterful stuff.

Mark Morris has written over thirty books, including Toady, Stitch, The Immaculate, The Deluge and four Doctor Who books. He edited Cinema Macabre, a book of horror movie essays, and its follow-up Cinema Futura, and two volumes of The Spectral Book of Horror Stories. He edited two volumes of New Fears for Titan Books, and for Flame Tree Press he has edited four horror anthologies: After Sundown, Beyond the Veil, Close to Midnight, and Darkness Beckons.

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Jeff Stehman

The trailer I saw for it went the gruesome-humor route. Any truth to that?

John ONeill

It’s definitely R-level horror. I don’t consider it humorous — certainly not at all like Netflix’s Wednesday, for example. I watched it as straight-up supernatural horror, and in my book is stayed pretty true to that.

Jeff Stehman

Thanks, John. Probably not for me.

Joe H.

I’ve enjoyed all of Mike Flanagan’s Netflix series that I’ve seen, but this may have actually been my favorite — it’s much more over-the-top than the various Hauntings or Midnight Mass, but it’s also the one that seems to have actually stuck the landing.

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