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The Fall of the House of Usher: A Midnight Dreary

"Nobody gets away with anything. Not really."

I have been looking forward to this series for such a long time. I'm so, so excited that it's here.

Mike Flanagan is one of those directors that I will watch anything that he creates. He's my favorite active horror director by a mile. I'm especially fond of his Netflix output, which gave us things like The Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass. This is his final collaboration with Netflix, and so in many ways, the entire series is a finale. A punctuation mark. One, last chance to go out with a bang.

This is not just an adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe short story. It's a combination of nearly a dozen, many of which are my personal favorites. Look ahead at the different episode titles or character names to get a hint as to which. The Poe references are incredibly numerous. It's not just in the names, but a lot of the dialogue lifts directly from various poems as well. So far, it mostly works. So far. It'll be interesting to see if it continues to work as we go forward.

"The Fall of the House of Usher" gives us our framework for the series. This isn't quite an anthology, with each episode solely encapsulating the story that gives it its title, but something more serialized with threads that tie into each other, all encapsulated by our frame narrative.

Roderick Usher, in his decayed childhood home, confessing his sins to Assistant Attorney General Dupin. The Sackler and Purdue Pharma influence is very, very strong. Obviously so. Almost distractingly so. But it makes it very, very clear very quickly that the Ushers are not good people. They have happily profited from addiction and pain. And now almost all of them are dead.

Right from the start, the theme of consequence, of resolution and commitment, is made very, very clear. There are always consequences. Death demands vengeance, and no amount of power will protect you from that. We're told immediately that all six Usher children are dead. It immediately shifts the focus from a question of Who? into ones of How? and Why? It's a very different kind of tension. Yes, you go into horror media expecting most of the characters to die, but there's still that moment of hope and wonder that they'll manage to escape. None of the kids escape here.

We have six kids that we're going to follow to their sure to be bloody demise: two legitimate and four bastards. Sure, none of them actually look like siblings, but it's easy enough to wave that away. Out of all of them, Camille is an early favorite. I love her hair, her snark, how competent she is. I also really like Perry, who draws attention whenever he is on screen. He so clearly wants respect and to do well, but is running into brick walls at every turn. It was interesting that how many people thought that he was the mole.

Sorry, informant. Lenore is too obvious, right? A morally upstanding granddaughter who is saying that people should be punished if they break the law? Very, very obvious informant candidate. Juno, the very new wife, is also an obvious candidate. I love that they acknowledged that the relationship between her and Roderick is creepy.

I suppose that we'll find out soon enough. A 50 million dollar bounty to the Usher who discovers who they are. Wow. For all of Roderick's talk about blood being blood and opening the gates to family, he really has a ruthless streak to him. That entire dinner scene was the highlight of the episode. Not just the bickering, but the expressions and silent exchanges between everyone was so much fun. Electric, even. They felt like a family that didn't particularly like each other. Unfortunately, it sounds like it's the only time that we'll get all of the Ushers together in the same room, which is a shame.

Outside of the kids, my favorite character so far has to be Madeline. What an interesting woman. She has this core of steel in her, one that existed even when she and Roderick were young. Notice how she had her arm up to protect Roderick from their Dad as they backed away from him. She's protective. Decisive. Seemingly the dominant twin between them. I'm fascinated to find out more about her.

We also have Verna, who we didn't see a ton of but is just so much fun. She has this sinewy, slippery energy about her that is mesmerizing. Notice how she was pouring them whiskeys even before they said anything, even though she suggested Gin Rickeys. What is she? My immediate thought was a Crossroad Demon. "Buy now, pay later" definitely sounds like one. So what did Roderick and Madeline give up?

As far as actual horror content goes, we had fairly little so far. One real jump scare with the jester in the limo towards the end. A lot of it was tension building and ghosts hanging around the edges. Depending on your lighting, you might not have noticed the ghost of Eliza actually standing behind Dupin. I didn't until she moved. Very subtle, very creepy. Besides that, the standout was definitely the scene in the house with Eliza standing behind Roderick, hidden in the dark, only occasionally revealed by flashes of lightning. You knew a flash of light was coming, but not when, only that it would illuminate something horrible. Very, very effective.

Random Thoughts

Generally speaking, characters from Madeline and Roderick's past have names associated with Poe's life, and our modern characters come from his stories.

This particular episode title is a little different than the rest. It comes from the first line in "The Raven," which coincidentally is the name of the last episode. Love the symmetry.

Flanagan likes to reuse actors between projects. It lends an almost anthology air to his work, and it's always fun to see who is playing what role. There's a thrill, too, when a newcomer returns for a second outing, like they've officially joined the family.

A general note since I know we have a lot of cat lovers on this site (myself included): there is some pretty graphic violence towards animals. I'm calling out cats specifically here, although it shouldn't be that much of a surprise given that the third episode is titled "The Black Cat."

Also a general note: a lot of strobing lights in the episode, to the point where it started to bother me and I had to look away from the screen. I'm not particularly sensitive to that so it's something to keep in mind as well.

We did a lot of scene setting this episode. It'll be fun to see what happens now that the players are in place.
An Honest Fangirl loves video games, horror movies, and superheroes, and occasionally manages to put words together in a coherent and pleasing manner.


  1. I always loved Edgar Allan Poe, but I'm taking your cat warning seriously, Fangirl. :)

  2. I have both an old physical copy of Poe's work (45 cent cover price softcover book I got from my mom in fact!), and on my Kindle as I'm a lover of these old macabre tales, but I know very little of this series at this time, since I've never had Netflix, but it sounds intriguing.

    I literally just watched the 1960 movies starring Vincent Price last night as I've posted elsewhere here, so this timing is very interesting!

    I just lost a beloved cat, and got a new kitten to fill that void, so the violence against animals, and especially cats may ward me away from this one, if it gets a release besides Netflix that is, the strobing lights won't win any love from me either, as I too am not subject to medical issues from them, but they can be extremely annoying and distracting, some maps in Doom do that, and it's not cool.

  3. To be fully clear, there is no animal violence in this episode specifically, outside of a very brief scene involving a semi-realistic chimp involved in medical testing for a new heart device. Episodes 2 and 3 are the ones that have the explicit violence and graphic aftermath of said violence. (Don't think that violates our spoiler policy to say that.) But I know that people might not want to be blindsided so I put the warning about it in this review.

  4. I had no idea this was Mike Flannigans last collaboration with Netflix. I look forward them every year (besides The Midnight Club which I just couldn’t get into). I just finished Usher and would rank it 4th out of his Netflix series. Good but not excellent. Maybe I’d appreciate it more if I knew more about Poe. Verna is the most fascinating in character for me. Carla Gugino is great in ever Flannigan series she’s a part of but I think this is her best character. I also am fascinated by Madeline (love Mary McDonald ever since BSG) but also repulsed by the decisions she and Roderick made in the past and continue to make.

    1. I couldn't really get into Midnight Club either, and is the one that I'm most hesitant to recommend to people.

      Having finished Usher, I think that I would rank it 3rd overall. Excellent, but not as emotionally powerful as Midnight Mass and Hill House. (Bly Manor, I have more complicated thoughts on and suspect it would improve on a rewatch.) I would argue that it's the most outright fun out of the 4, though, and by a fairly large margin.

  5. Just started watching this, mostly because I saw it reviewed on the site. I've not seen either of Mike Flanagan's series, but I've always liked Bruce Greenwood and Mary McDonnell.


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