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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Want a spooky haunted house experience? Look around Madison, if you dare...

‘Fall of the House of Usher’ is an instant Halloween classic

Flanagan’s clever twist on Poe’s classics delivers Halloween haunts with nuance and poise

The newly crowned king of horror strikes again! Mike Flanagan’s The Fall of the House of Usher is turning heads this Halloween season. 

The show, featuring several returning actors and actresses from Flanagan’s “Haunting of Hill House,” brings a modern twist to Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher” and other stories.

Set in 2023, Roderick Usher (Bruce Greenwood) is a billionaire businessman who created a pharmaceutical empire. With six children to carry on his legacy, Roderick seems to be at the height of success. However, his children are dying in droves, often quite traumatically. Roderick and his sister, COO Madelyn Usher (Mary McDonnell), must figure out who is trying to destroy their family.

Spoilers ahead for “Fall of the House of Usher.”

The show flashes from past to present as Roderick unveils his own history to detective and reoccurring Poe character Auguste Dupin (Carl Lumbly) to piece together what is happening. In fabulously gory and dramatic scenes, one of the Usher children is killed each episode as the story unfolds. 

The bold cinematography and directorial choices made by Flanegan give this show an unforgettable edge. From an orgy ending in a shower of acid rain to a chimpanzee mauling someone’s face off, Flanagan experiments with new horror techniques and expands on classic tropes.

Even the storytelling challenges the usual expectations of the horror genre. Verna (Carla Gugino), who is revealed to be the story's central antagonist, is ambiguous. Her vague and nuanced characterization makes it unclear how audiences are supposed to perceive her. 

However, the members of the Usher clan are revealed to be selfish, greedy and awful, which begs the question: who really is this story’s villain, anyway? Viewers are left to decide that for themselves. 

In usual Flanaverse fashion, the series is more than just horror. It is a critique of the pharmaceutical industry as well as the greed and selfishness of the insanely rich and powerful. It toys with ideas about values, morality and how much people are willing to sacrifice for success. 

If you’re looking for a good scare this Halloween season, The Fall of the House of Usherbrilliantly delivers. 

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Rebekah Irby

Rebekah Irby is an arts editor for The Daily Cardinal.

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