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Providing Student News to Old Dominion University Since 1930

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Providing Student News to Old Dominion University Since 1930

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“The Fall of the House of Usher” Adapts Edgar Allan Poe’s Works For the Modern Day

A promotional poster for “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Via Netflix.

People with even the smallest interest in the works of Edgar Allan Poe and the horror genre will enjoy “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the newest horror miniseries from prolific creator Mike Flanagan. 


“The Fall of the House of Usher” is a series that adapts and re-contextualizes Poe’s short story of the same name, along with numerous other well-known and obscure works by Poe, into the rise and fall of a corrupt pharmaceutical company. Much like some of Flanagan’s other works, the story is told in a nonlinear narrative with two timelines, one taking place from 1953 to 1980, and the other taking place in 2023.


The series tells the story of twins Roderick and Madeline Usher, named after the characters from the eponymous short story, and their rise to power. Roderick has six children: two legitimate children and four recognized illegitimate children, all named after various characters from Poe stories and poems, from the well-known “Masque of the Red Death” to the relatively obscure “The Murders in Rue Morgue.” The family is haunted by a supernatural woman as Roderick’s children die brutal and mysterious deaths straight out of Poe’s pages. There is also an element of metanarrative, as the story unfolds between a conversation between Roderick and C. Auguste Dupin, the attorney trying to bring the Ushers to justice.


The episodes of “The Fall of the House of Usher” are named for various Edgar Allan Poe works: “A Midnight Dreary,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” “Murder in the Rue Morgue,”  “The Black Cat,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “Goldbug,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and “The Raven.” These episodes modernize the short stories they’re named after, usually seamlessly. There are many excellent instances of foreshadowing, such as a character owning a cat named Pluto, referencing “The Black Cat” as early as the first episode.


It’s clear that the creators did their homework when adapting and referencing Poe. Not only does Flanagan pay homage to Poe’s less famous works, like “Metzengerstein,” “The Premature Burial,” and “The Spectacles,” he also includes allusions to real historical people, such as the characters William Longfellow and Rufus Griswold, named after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Rufus Wilmot Griswold—writers who had contentious histories with Poe.


The cast of “The Fall of the House of Usher” is incredibly talented. Not a single one gave a lackluster or forgettable performance—even the cast members featured in fewer episodes. Their performances do the chilling and melodramatic monologues of the show justice.


Frequent collaborators of Flanagan’s show up in the cast, with Bruce Greenwood and Zach Gilford as the old and young versions of Roderick Usher, Kate Siegel as Camille L’Espanaye, Henry Thomas as Frederick Usher, Samantha Sloya as Tamerlane Usher, and Carla Gugino as Verna. Mark Hamill is a notable new cast member, giving a dignified and intimidating performance as Arthur Gordon Pym, the Usher family’s intimidating corporate lawyer and fixer. 


Despite being heavily influenced by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, prior knowledge of these works is not required to understand the story. When I watched the show, I had only read some of the stories they adapted, but the ones I was unfamiliar with were still enjoyable and easy to follow. One can learn a lot of the works of Poe by watching these retellings, but prior knowledge certainly enhances the experience.


“The Fall of the House of Usher” delves into themes such as power, consequences, and capitalist exploitation in its modernization of old horror. The series also stays true to its inspiration, delving into madness and hauntings in the style of Poe, featuring Roderick Usher seeing the ghosts of his dead family and several of his children’s deaths being preceded by personal descents into madness.


“The Fall of the House of Usher”  brings the work of Poe to life in a twisted narrative of murder and mayhem. Anyone looking for a miniseries that will strike them to the core without relying on cheap jumpscares should give it a watch.

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About the Contributor
Ash F.J. Thomas
Ash F.J. Thomas, Arts and Entertainment Editor
Ash F.J. Thomas is an English major working as the Arts & Entertainment Editor. Ash likes to review the many artistic events and exhibitions at ODU and the general Norfolk area. Outside of the Mace & Crown, Ash is passionate about creative writing, theater, and gaming.

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