Horror fans rejoice as Netflix is back with the sexy scares in 2023. Directors Mike Flanagan and Michael Fimognari have once again delivered for fans of the streaming giant’s gothic horror series, this time drawing inspiration from Baltimore’s own Edgard Allan Poe with The Fall of the House of Usher.
A few surprises are in store during this year’s latest addition to your creepy yet beautiful binge-watching on Netflix, including one familiar face you’d probably haven’t seen outside of Disney and Lucasfilm. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
The Fall of the House of Usher follows a long line of very successful Netflix dramas centered around the supernatural and paranormal. Often taking a dirty look at life, these gritty yet satisfying series are often released right around Halloween, making them the perfect excuse to sit in your pajamas with a good snack all evening or weekend.
Similar in nature to Midnight Mass (2021), The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020), The Haunting of Hill House (2018), and The Midnight Club (2022), Netflix’s newest take on horror brings back a few names from their previous gothic series such as Kate Siegel, T’Nia Miller, Ruth Codd, and Samantha Sloyan, while bringing on a few new stars like Carla Gugino (Sin City, Spy Kids, Night at the Museum).
A Scary, Sexy Good Time
Like Netflix’s previous gothic horror dramas, The Fall of the House of Usher not only promises plenty of provocative storylines, pushing the envelope of social norms and challenging the comfortability within your living room, but the show is built around the tell-all confession of Roderick Usher (Bruce Underwood) to United States Assistant Attorney C. Auguste Dupin (Carl Lumbly) regarding the eerie series of death of the Usher children, all waiting to inherit their father’s fortune.
The storytelling is masterfully done, providing viewers with off-camera creeps, chilling recollections of past events, and even choking sympathy for the unfortunate Usher family. Creaking together remnants of tales penned by the master of gothic fiction, Edgar Allan Poe. Flanagan draws on the success of his previous work, adding the homage and fearful suspense, with a jump scare or two, that you’d expect from a Poe story.
Pulling from Poe
You’ll immediately notice that the confession of Roderick Usher, in an effort to mend his own tortured soul, sounds frighteningly familiar to The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe. Well, that’s no accident. Much of the sinister vibes around the story, as well as episode names such as “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and “A Midnight Dreary,” all either directly relate to Poe titles or reference his works. As well the show features striking imagery surrounding omens carried on the wings of ravens, as well as name references to popular Poe characters, which may give insight into the plot.
Of course, the most notable relation to Edgar Allan Poe is the title of the series, The Fall of the House of Usher, a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1839 in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine. The Fall of the House of Usher tells the story of Roderick Usher and his sister Madeline, both ill, and the remaining namesakes for their family. The story ends with Madeline, who has escaped from her tomb upon her death, returning for one last act as she attacks her brother. The story is highly themed around insanity, and Netflix’s show doesn’t shy away from that original message.
“The Fall of the House of Usher” Cast Keeps on Giving
One thing Flanagan’s most recent work for Netflix has in common with gothic horror stories from the last few years is the cast. Although there are some new faces in this season’s spooky storytelling, The Fall of the House of Usher relies heavily on favorites like Kate Siegel, Henry Thomas, Sauriyan Sapkota, Rahul Kohli, and Iman Benson.
Bringing together the Usher family was likely easy, as the cast who’ve worked in these Netflix-exclusive projects all seem to have happily returned for this affronting work. Bringing the misdeeds of Camille, Napoleon Usher, Tamerlane Usher, Prospero Usher, and their other brother and sister to life, an evil force, deep-seated in the past of Roderick and Madeline, has returned to stake its claim against the cursed family. Blinded by their wealth and self-serving attitudes, the usher family tries everything they can to protect their brand, even utilizing a sketchy family attorney named Arthur Pym to steal from crime scenes.
Arthur Pym: Jedi Knight
Fans of The Fall of the House of Usher were completely surprised when Arthur Pym, the Usher Family attorney, debuted in the first season. None other than Mark Hamill, famous for playing Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, played the dirty, yet dependable, henchman of the family, protecting them from bad press and laws as their crime-riddled pharmaceutical company comes under fire by the U.S. government.
For many, the role seems out of character for Hamill, whose face has become synonymous with the “good guy,” however, this isn’t the first time the man who gave life to Luke Skywalker has opened his potentially insane and deprived mind to audiences. Long before joining the Usher Family, Hamill once produced a line of stellar but adult-oriented coloring books and comics for readers. Much like the greatness of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, Hamill has also taken on the insanity surrounding the infamous Batman villain, Joker, in the 90s animated series of the same name.
Still, seeing the guy who took down the Empire in Star Wars playing such a dirty and twisted character is a tough watch for some. However, it adds a gritty, unique feel to the show, highlighting Hamill’s ability to act outside the box Star Wars fans have put him in. It’s a fantastic performance by the Hollywood legend, one those willing to face extreme gore, sex, and nudity should consider.
“The Fall of the House of Usher” is Good, but Not for Everyone
This show is a great addition to any watchlist this spooky season. However, despite a solid story that invokes suspense and fear, it does go to the extreme with sexual content, drug use, language, and nudity. As an adult, there were some scenes that made us ridiculously uncomfortable, but maybe that’s the entire point.
As the cast and scenery do such a good job of creating an intense point of view, I often wondered why there was the need for such weird and out-of-place sexual content. Well, the short answer is that it makes you even more on-edge and uncomfortable, which makes the actual scares the show offers even more effective.
So, if you can stomach large amounts of blood, some seriously devious family issues, and a lot of death, The Fall of the House of Usher is an incredible watch. Along with the other cast members, Mark Hamill’s performance is brilliant. Although, we do insist it is an adult-only series! Sorry kiddos. We can only hope there’s a season 2!
The eight-episode series is now available to stream on Netflix.