Arts, Television

‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ Is a Mature Slow-Burn Series

Just before Halloween, Netflix conjured up a series worthy of the spooky season. The streaming service welcomed its new horror series The Fall of the House of Usher on Oct. 12. 

Directed and created by Mike Flanagan, the creator of The Haunting of Hill House, The Fall of the House of Usher is adapted from the short story of the same name by American writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe. 

The new show follows Roderick Usher (Bruce Greenwood), the CEO of a scandalous pharmaceutical company, as he confronts his past when his children start to mysteriously die. 

Right off the bat, viewers find that many members of the Usher family are deceased. The show opens up with Roderick and a mysterious woman in a bird mask sitting at the funeral of three of his five children. The show introduces this mystery woman early in the first episode, but her identity remains hidden to make the audience question who she is and what her motives are.

The series is beautifully framed, with each scene capturing a small amount of information topped off with subtle, eerie string instrumentals. The show took creative liberty to hide key details, leaving the viewer unable to predict what’s to come next. 

The set and mood of the dramatic production is rather typical for the horror genre: dark, monochromatic, and still. Instead of focusing only on the jump-scare clichés of horror films, however, Flanagan does an excellent job of integrating humorous dialogue within a suspenseful plot.

The show takes viewers back to 1953 during the early life of Roderick and his twin sister Madeline Usher (Mary McDonnell). Their mother is incredibly ill yet refuses to take any medication, which ultimately causes her death. 

With a timeline that frequently cuts between past and present, the plot was difficult to follow given how many different perspectives are introduced at the same time.

In the second episode, Prospero “Perry” Usher (Sauriyan Sapkota), the youngest and illegitimate child of Roderick, hosts a masquerade night party in an abandoned testing facility of the Usher family as an attempt to prove himself worthy of the Usher name. He eventually dies at the end of the episode after a mysterious woman appears at his exclusive party. 

Although the audience knew from the beginning that Perry is one of Roderick’s first children to die, the show does a fantastic job maintaining suspense while leading up to his death. Chaotic electronic music and sexual movement fill the screen and just within a blink of an eye, Perry dies with acid raining down onto him from the broken sprinklers on the ceiling.

The second episode also introduces the audience to the concept of a painkiller pill, which Roderick proposes as the solution to a “world without pain.” At the moment it seems safe to assume that he wants this opportunity to overcome his grief for his dead mother, but it is much too early to know Roderick’s real motive for this creation. Like most horror series, information slowly seeps out of the dialogues, and backstories are held off for later episodes.

Throughout the first two episodes, the viewer is wrapped up in the strange dynamic of the affluent Usher family. With all of the different threads and perspectives, it is still hard to say exactly where all these events are leading. Flanagan leaves out crucial details and often ends even small scenes on cliffhangers. 

It is also difficult to grasp what each character wants given how slow the show moves. It can be frustrating if you do not have the patience to watch the characters reveal their personalities, plans, and histories. 

This series is a psychological rollercoaster full of triggering visuals and dialogues. If you are ready for a mature, slow-paced, and aristocratic horror show, then The Fall of the House of Usher is a good choice this Halloween season.

October 31, 2023