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October 12, 2023 / Netflix

Starring: Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas, Bruce Greenwood, Mary McDonnell, Mark Hamill

Directed By: Mike Flanagan; Michael Fimognari

From Mike Flanagan, the creator of The Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass, a wicked horror series based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Ruthless siblings Roderick and Madeline Usher have built Fortunato Pharmaceuticals into an empire of wealth, privilege and power. But past secrets come to light when the heirs to the Usher dynasty start dying at the hands of a mysterious woman from their youth.

Series Review By Darren

The Fall of the House of Usher is a masterful, terrifying and enthralling piece of storytelling from maestro Mike Flanagan thanks to brilliant writing, a superb cast with a scene stealing performance from the ever outstanding Carla Gugino, making not only one of Flanagan’s best pieces of storytelling, but one of the most captivating miniseries I have ever seen!

Without question, one of the most exciting voices working in the horror genre today is Mike Flanagan. Flanagan has been the mastermind behind brilliant adaptations of revered horror tales such as The Haunting of Hill House and Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, as well as exciting original stories such as Oculus and Midnight Mass. From writing and directing, with a dedicated cast of incredibly talented regular actors, the second Flanagan’s name becomes attached to a project, it's an instant must watch for any horror fan. For his latest miniseries, Flanagan turns his sights to the works of Edgar Allen Poe, adapting multiple stories, and once again Flanagan has hit the jackpot. Not only is it utterly terrifying at moments, his latest miniseries features captivating writing that strikes you to your core alongside outstanding performances and gruesomely shocking deaths that is not only one of Flanagan’s finest pieces of storytelling to date, but one of the best horror pieces of the decade to date!

Roderick and Madeline Usher have built a powerful family dynasty through the success of their pharmaceutical company. But, the dynasty begins to crumble as the family’s heirs begin to mysteriously die, one by one in unimaginable ways.

As with all of his projects, the strength of The Fall of the House of Usher is Flanagan’s masterful writing. This time based around the notions of the corrupting nature of money and power, Flanagan has crafted a truly magnificent story. It’s a captivating chronicle of the rise and fall of a powerful family, giving the audience complex characters and chilling moments that you won’t soon forget. While the audience knows from the first few minutes of the show that all of the Usher children have perished, watching Roderick Usher tell his story and that of his children’s death is an engrossing experience that easily fills the eight episode miniseries, making for one miniseries that I can easily watch over and over again. It’s unpredictable, shocking, thought provoking and an emotional rollercoaster at times that cements Flanagan as one of the most gifted horror storytellers working today, able to capture beautiful yet terrifying stories without relying solely on jump scares. Though there are some brilliant jump scares worked into the series! Not only does Flanagan weave many Poe works into the story using the short story “The Fall of the House of Usher” as the centerpiece for the story, Flanagan retains some of Poe’s lyrical original text for the series’s most pertinent moments, creating for some unforgettable monologues and dialogue exchanges.

Flanagan has always had disturbing images in his projects that will scare viewers to death, such as the Bent-Neck Lady in The Haunting of Hill House. But, Flanagan truly one-ups himself with the deaths that occur in this miniseries as these are truly disturbing, bloody and ingenious sequences he has crafted. They are some of the most brutal kills I have seen in recent memory on screen, each one startling viewers and haunting them until the next death arrives.

Over all of his projects, Flanagan has worked with largely the same cast, and it's easy to see why because every single one of them gives a truly exceptional performance. The show is full of powerhouse performances all the way from Bruce Greenwood’s commanding lead performance as Roderick Usher, all the way down to Kyleigh Curran’s tender portrayal of the youngest and most innocent member of the Usher family Lenore. As always, Kate Siegel and Samantha Sloyan are incredible, delivering complex performances of intriguing female characters, each with their own darkness. Marking his first collaboration with Flanagan is Mark Hamill, portraying the Usher family’s legal counsel Arthur Pym, and Hamill is nothing short of excellent. His character lives in the shadows, and Hamill’s gruff and harsh voice makes him the right amount of terrifying and cunning to bring to life this morally dubious character. Though, it is the first time collaboration between Flanagan and Willa Fitzgerald that was among one of my favourite performances. Fitzgerald portrays the younger version of Madeliene Usher in a cunning performance, highlighting the cutthroat nature of Madeleine who will do anything for power and control. It’s one of the finest performances I have seen from Fitzgerald, showcasing talents I have not previously seen from her, which I hope to see more of from her in the future… in addition to another Flanagan collaboration.

With such an impressive ensemble cast, it is usually hard for one performance to stand out above the rest, but Carla Gugino without a question steals the show as the mysterious Verna. While I cannot say much about her role without spoiling the show, her exquisite performance is truly one of the best television performances of the decade so far. With each scene, Gugino serves up her lines of dialogue in a deliciously, enthralling manner that has you hanging on her every word, despite you being very wary of her character’s true intentions. Gugino creates a character that is cunning, mischievous, and sinister, but at the same time caring and compassionate, resulting in one of the most captivating characters in recent memory in a television series. The Fall of the House of Usher marks Gugino’s fifth collaboration with Flanagan, with Flanagan once again tapping into every ounce of Gugino’s breathtaking talent that begs the question, why have other filmmakers not been using Gugino to her full potential like Flanagan?

Reuniting with Flanagan are The Newton Brothers, composing the musical score for the eight episode miniseries. And their work here is among their best work to date, creating a grand musical score with sinister undertones. The orchestral sounds drive the emotion of the story, while adding a sense of mystery and intrigue to every moment as the horrors of the Usher family are slowly exposed. There is a gothic feel to the music, matching the gothic nature of Poe’s original work that adds a layer of brilliance to Flanagan’s storytelling. Combined with impressive production and costume design and some stunning cinematography, including a wonderful visual homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, the artistic aspects of The Fall of the House of Usher are sensational across the board.

At this point, there is no story that Mike Flanagan sets his eyes on in the horror genre that he does not knock out of the park, but The Fall of the House of Usher is his finest piece of storytelling to date, tied only with the masterful The Haunting of Hill House in my mind. From stunning performances from the entire cast but most notably the brilliant Carla Gugino and Willa Fiztgerald, gruesome deaths that will leave you speechless, and an engrossing story that hooks you for the entire eight episode run that will rattle you to your core, The Fall of the House of Usher is a crowning masterpiece of the horror genre that only the talented Mike Flanagan could conjure up!

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