I’ve been a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe’s work since high school. A Halloween episode of The Simpsons introduced me to The Raven, and I was hooked.
(If I’m not mistaken, The Raven was narrated in that Simpsons episode by the inimitable James Earl Jones.)
I own multiple compendiums of his work. I’ve watched all movies related to his writings and was suitably impressed with The Pale Blue Eye (2022) where he was portrayed by Harry Melling.
I can recite The Raven from memory for you if you like.
I can discuss at length the major points and highlights in classics like The Pit and the Pendulum, The Cask of Amontillado, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Goldbug, The Purloined Letter, The Masque of the Red Death, The Descent into the Maelström... I gush about his Gothic noir, his story construction, his character description, his melancholy mind...
I’m a fan, is what I’m saying.
It had been many a decade since I first discovered his genius, and was pleasantly surprised by that same sense of Gothic horror timbre so evidently present in the works of Mike Flanagan.
The Haunting of Hill House (2018) was my first introduction to his work, and I was instantly in love. The episodes chilled me. It was horror the way it is meant to be.
The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020) followed - a different tone, a different mood, the same cast, but portraying vastly different characters. While it may not have excited me as much as Hill House had done, it cemented in my humble opinion at least, Flanagan’s status as an auteur.
The Midnight Club (2022) was fun, but still didn’t tickle my fancy as much as Hill House had done.
Midnight Mass (2021) on the other hand, blew my socks off. It was the kind of slow-burn, emotive, tension-building series that Flanagan seemed to pour every bit of storytelling essence he had inside himself into.
It was his magnum opus in my view.
With The Fall of the House of Usher (2023), Flanagan has again flexed his muscle.
If you’ve read the Edgar Allan Poe short story, and are expecting a retelling, you’ll be left disappointed.
But if you’re a fan of Poe’s work, you’ll be left giddy with excitement.
It’s in the Easter eggs; the names, the episode titles, the actions of the characters, their motivations, the ruthlessness and the brutality contained in a whisper, the narrative of a powerful family coming apart at the seams as Verna (expertly played by Carla Gugino) comes to collect her due... all interspersed with lines from Poe’s dark and melancholy poetry, carrying with it the same inevitable resignation to death’s inescapable grasp as the body of Poe’s literary works.
The stellar cast - the bulk of whom have featured in Flanagan’s previous work - proves both their versatility as actors and Flanagan’s skill as a director. Rahul Kohli and T’Nia Miller are, once again, outstanding - their characters worlds apart from those they portrayed in Bly Manor or Midnight Mass, but no less believable.
If you’re a fan of Mike Flanagan, The Fall of the House of Usher cannot be missed, if even as an introduction to his works.
You’ll balk at any vapid attempt at horror through cheap jump scares Hollywood can offer up after you’ve been introduced to his craft.
And once the pall of Gothic horror has taken hold over you, much like Roderick Usher in the series’ closing lines borrowed from The Raven: “...and my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor, shall be lifted... nevermore.”
You may never find escape.