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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

New Netflix series ushers in horror

Mike Flanagan’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ paints a haunting picture of tragedy and greed
Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” in print. The new adapted mini series premiered on Netflix Oct. 12.

While the Halloween season may have come to an end, Mike Flanagan’s latest masterpiece, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” transports audiences to the haunting world of the Usher family and Fortunato Pharmaceuticals.

Based on Edgar Allen Poe’s masterful writing, the show follows the Usher family through time and tragedy as members of the family begin to die mysteriously – and gruesomely – one by one. Jumping between Roger and Madeline Usher’s childhood to their young adult lives in the 1970s to their painkiller empire in 2023, the audience becomes intertwined with the mystery.  

Flanagan’s writing and directing mixed with the directorial and cinematography skills of Michael Fimognari create a hauntingly beautiful series that draws you in upon the first episode.

Starting in the Ushers’ childhood home, Roger, played by Bruce Greenwood, begins his “confession” to Assistant U.S. Attorney Auguste Dupin, played by Carl Lumbly, following the death of his six adult children. Throughout the series, Roger is haunted by visions of his dead children, with hair-raising jumpscares that keep viewers at the edge of their seat during every scene.

Audiences watch as the Ushers build their empire of Fortunato Pharmaceuticals through suspicious circumstances and learn the intricacies of the Usher children, born from five different women, only to later see it all shatter.

Seen through the perspective of the Raven and Roger, “The Fall of the House of Usher” is a poignant commentary on capitalism and humanity’s inherent greed. Each of the six Usher children, and their spouses and children, are subjected to deaths often of their own making — each reflecting themes and stories of Poe.

From “The Masque of the Red Death” to “The Black Cat” to “The Tell-Tale Heart” and more, Poe’s masterful, horrific storytelling truly gets the spotlight it deserves. Featuring direct quotes from “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee,” amongst other poems, Poe’s words and themes create the perfect atmosphere for horror.

From the set to the writing to the music, “The Fall of the House of Usher” is a stunning mix of horror and suspense. As someone who loves tension and fast-paced plots but cringes at the typical “scary” archetypes, the series was a perfect fit.

Mary McDonnell’s and Willa Fitzgerald’s performances as Madeline and young Madeline, respectively, stood out amongst the rest. Madeline’s uniquely twisted and harrowing journey shines a unique light on feminism and the quest for power in a male-dominated world. McDonnell and Fitzgerald perfectly capture her calculated and manipulative character, leaving audience members with a chill in their bones.

Verna, or the Raven, is another character that leaves the viewer sleeping with one eye open. Suspended from time and space, Verna, played by Carla Gugino, encapsulates death, life and everything in between. While it’s easy to see her as a villain, the latter part of the series shows she isn’t so easily stuffed into an archetype.

Her interactions with Lenore, daughter of Fredrick Usher and the youngest member of the family, show a shocking humanity to a character that supposedly is anything but.

The downfall of the Ushers circles around hubris — whether it be in the context of power, relationships or technological advances. Watching each of the Ushers meet their demise is tragic — and yet, as the series goes on, it becomes harder and harder to feel pity for characters who seemingly cannot make a morally righteous decision.

From Victorine’s sadistic interpretation of science and Tamerlane’s destructive ambition to Prospero’s glutton for pleasure and fame and Fredrick’s downfall into abuse and addiction, the Usher children are prime examples of humanity crumbling in front of our eyes.

While Poe’s storytelling is what makes the series so powerful, audiences don’t need to know every bit of his work to understand the show. Putting together the pieces is absolutely part of the fun, but nevertheless, the storyline still remains hauntingly perfect.

“The Fall of the House of Usher” is yet another beautiful work by Flanagan, and its storyline is perfect for anyone, regardless of a love for horror or literature. From its writing and cinematography to the stellar acting that will leave you looking over your shoulder for the ghost of an Usher, this series is one of the best on Netflix.

“The Fall of the House of Usher” is streaming now on Netflix.

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About the Contributor
Shealagh Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief | she/her
Shealagh is a senior majoring in journalism with a minor in international relations from Ashby, Mass. She has previously worked as a co-op for the Boston Globe on the homepage desk and as an intern for GBH News and Boston Public Radio. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, finding a new favorite coffee spot and exploring Boston. She is a huge art lover and wants nothing more than to see the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. After graduation, Shealagh hopes to be a political journalist in Washington D.C. Follow Shealagh on Twitter @ShealaghS.

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