Strobe lights, heavy bass, top-shelf medication, lingerie-clad revelers gyrating in lustful ecstasy—at first look, a kinky, decadent rave scene feels removed from the Nineteenth-century world of Edgar Allan Poe. However in Netflix’s adaptation of The Fall of the Home of Usher, it’s only one set piece that works to cleverly carry the creator’s work into up to date instances.
Mike Flanagan’s eight-episode anthology sequence attracts upon a number of brief tales, remixing its supply materials in seemingly untrue methods. Take the titular Ushers. As initially written by Poe, Roderick Usher is a sickly man afraid of his personal shadow who lives in a dilapidated house along with his sister, Madeline, a skinny, weak girl who appears to “care about nothing.” However Flanagan transforms the wan duo into bespoke-suited trade titans. He types his Roderick Usher (performed by Bruce Greenwood) nearer to Logan Roy, as a silver-haired patriarch with six kids who runs a pharmaceutical conglomerate that peddles addictive painkillers. In the meantime, Madeline (Mary McDonnell) is reworked right into a narrow-eyed ambition machine—a girl who cares about every part. This doesn’t even start to cowl the plentiful variations between Poe’s tales and Flanagan’s sequence relating to time interval, solid dimension, and story arc.
However what’s notable concerning the Netflix present isn’t simply the invented plotlines or its recent tackle Poe’s characters. If something, Flanagan will get away with all this reimagining as a result of he preserves what’s arguably essentially the most essential ingredient of Poe’s work: its Gothic temper. Even when portraying eventualities outdoors of Poe’s purview—for instance, a Black lesbian scientist managing thousands and thousands in biotech funding or a redhead Gwyneth Paltrow wannabe making an attempt to launch a wellness empire—Flanagan imbues every episode with an environment of dread and gloom that mirrors Poe.
Within the brief story “The Masque of the Purple Demise,” Poe spends the majority of his time describing the fortress through which Prince Prospero and his courtiers wall themselves off from the diseased public. “However first let me inform of the rooms through which it was held,” the creator writes, pulling the reader away from a disastrous ball held by Prospero and towards a prolonged description of seven gaudy, weird rooms in his fortress. He devotes practically 300 phrases to an ebony clock. These diversions create, in Poe’s phrases, “disconcert and tremulousness.” The story ends with the loss of life of all of the revelers on the social gathering, however by that time their dying looks as if an afterthought. They’re mere casualties of the all-consuming unease that Poe has rigorously conjured.
“The Inform-Story Coronary heart” works similarly, dedicating a lot of its size to the insane ravings of its narrator. “True!—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I’ve been and am,” opens the story, instantly unsettling its reader. So efficient is Poe at casting a spell of uncanny eerieness that the dismemberment that happens within the story’s ultimate moments really feel like an inevitable consequence fairly than a stunning climax. The poem “The Raven,” too, makes use of its narrator’s lamentation and the chorus of “Nevermore” to create a melancholy murkiness that eclipses Lenore and her loss of life.
In The Fall of the Home of Usher, Flanagan commits to temper with the identical depth, beginning with the present’s look. This isn’t the well-lit Scandinavian horror of Ari Aster’s Midsommar; neither is it the campy baroque of Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak. Flanagan applies a foggy, slate-colored palette to high-tension boardroom scenes and fantastically outfitted residences alike, alternating it with the inky, claustrophobic darkness of the Usher household house’s lounge: scenes through which Roderick Usher recounts the grotesque, premature deaths of all his offspring whereas sitting throughout from Detective Auguste Dupin (Carl Lumbly). The impact is considered one of creeping doom that works very like Poe’s scene-setting in his brief tales. Music can be central to Flanagan’s ode to Poe’s gothic sensibility: Lush strings pressure throughout a scene of Madeline passing via a homeless encampment to go to a boarded-up bar. Metallic thundering echoes in scenes of Leo Usher (Rahul Kohli) being slowly pushed mad by the specter of a black cat.
Counterintuitively, by sticking so intently to Poe’s emotional tenor, Flanagan is free to inject one thing of his personal: a way of ethical outrage. Poe’s authentic works aren’t parables with clear classes. Within the palms of one other author, “The Masque of the Purple Demise” may need been a scathing takedown of the highly effective who defend their eyes from the struggling of the poor. However Poe dwells extra on feeling than fable, leaving the work of assigning that means solely to the reader. For instance, in his story concerning the Ushers, how these scions of a once-wealthy household made their cash, why they personal their decrepit mansion—all of that is past Poe’s curiosity.
However in Flanagan’s retelling, the Ushers are a transparent analogue to the Sackler household. They’ve made their billions off Ligadone, a fast-acting opioid marketed as nonaddictive whereas inflicting widespread dependency and loss of life, very like OxyContin. The horrific demise of the Usher kids and the household’s downfall are the comeuppance for the grasping, damaging Roderick. Every episode, named after a unique Poe work, follows a unique Usher descendent, unraveling their explicit pathology and tracing how their father’s actions have decided their destiny. If Succession’s finale portrayed the mega-wealthy’s punishment by their non-public emotional torture, Flanagan offers us a narrative of one-percenters stalked by a supernatural arbiter of justice (performed by a chameleonic Carla Gugino).
The present tells the story not simply of a crumbling house however of a ruined society, utilizing Poe’s aura of concern and dread to level an accusatory finger on the wealthy and highly effective who revenue off the deaths of the lots. An excellent adaptation is devoted to the essence of the unique materials. An excellent adaptation manages to be devoted whereas utilizing the unique to construct one thing new. In Netflix’s The Fall of the Home of Usher, the preservation of temper pays correct homage to the creator’s phrases. The present’s social commentary, in flip, permits a retelling of an outdated story to resonate powerfully in our present second.