April 20, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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The Fall Of The House Of Usher “A Midnight Dreary”

Episode One

OK, The Midnight Club aside, I have generally enjoyed Mike Flanagan’s Netflix work.  The Fall of the House of Usher is, for better or for worse, the last of it.  He signed with Amazon Prime before this one hit Netflix, but he has shown a real talent for these 21st century adaptations of old horror stories by various authors.  Why not end his time with Netflix with one more, this one an adaptation of the various works of Edgar Allen Poe?

To be clear, the series is not a one-on-one adaptation, but it seems to be going that way.  Roderick Usher, played in the present by Bruce Greenwood, over a two week period buries all six of his adult children whether they were legitimate or not.  As he explains later, he always had a door open to whatever children he had and supported their respective enterprises whether they were born in wedlock or not.  That does not, for a minute, mean he was a kind and loving parent.  He’s just trying to make up for mistakes made by his mother.  But now, the final funeral is sparsely populated, down to Roderick, his twin sister Madeline, granddaughter Lenore, second wife Juno, and lawyer Arthur “the Pym Reaper” Pym.

At least, that’s what it appears to be for most.  Roderick sees ghosts, one a woman that clearly means a lot since she first appeared as a bartender in a flashback to 1979, and also his six dead kids.  No one else can see them, but it seems Roderick feels a premonition coming to the point where he calls the U.S. Attorney, C Auguste Dupin (Carl Lumbly) to his childhood home to give a full confession to, well, everything Dupin has been trying to convict him on for however long Dupin has been trying to do so.  Mostly this appears to be how Roderick’s company Fortunado is responsible for much of the opioid crisis, but before Dupin even gets that far, he has to step inside the childhood home that looks like the background for an episode of Scooby-Doo.

Yeah, this is that sort of show, but I really liked what I saw so far.  Flanagan brought in a cast that seems peppered with people from all of his previous shows, namely The Haunting of Hill HouseThe Haunting of Bly ManorMidnight Mass, and even The Midnight Club (Juno Usher was one of the kids from that last show).  Yeah, there are newcomers too, some very recognizable ones too, but if you thought Flanagan wasn’t going to make room for both his wife Kate Siegel or longtime collaborator Henry Thomas, well, you must be new to his work.

The episode moves at a good pace and makes for a creepy setting.  Roderick’s modern day mansion might as well be the set for The Shining, and his earliest story about how his super-religious mother Eliza (Annabeth Gish) insisted that her two children not get her any sort of medical care as she was painfully dying before appearing to die, leading her children to bury her in the backyard to avoid answering questions to the authorities, only goes the way we might expect it to when she digs herself out because she wasn’t quite dead yet.  She then goes off and murders a rich man she was, ahem, helping on the side, and while I would not be surprised if I found out later that man was the twins’ father, the only lesson Roderick gets out of it is that his mother murdered a powerful man as her last act on this Earth.

By the by, Roderick in the present tells Dupin that his mother’s ghost is standing right behind the attorney.  Dupin gives a long explanation on how he’s not turning around because powerful men pull those sorts of stunts, but lo and behold, there is someone standing behind him.  She’s in the background, a little hard to see if you aren’t looking until she goes to walk away, and I rewound the scene to see if there was more than a pair of dirty feet sticking out of the bottom of a grungy dress,  but that was it.  It sets the sort of atmospheric horror I tend to prefer anyway.

Mostly, this is good set-up, and not just for the potential scares.  The six children are all, in their own unique ways, awful, and when Dupin announces at a trial that someone in the Usher extended family turned state’s witness, that just leads the episode to show how awful Roderick is that he offers a 5 million dollar tax-free bounty on whoever reveals the informant, it shows how awful Pym is that he drew up the plans, and it shows how awful Madeline because…well, she seems kinda awful throughout the story to be honest.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to this one.