My favorite limited series since Mike Flanagan's "Midnight Mass", his new riff on Edgar Allan Poe, THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER is brilliant, smart & scary.
An intelligent mash-up of "Succession" and "Se7en", each of the eight episodes deals with the deadly sins of a wealthy pharmaceutical dynasty, seen through the filter of a Poe's works.
In the role of his career, Bruce Greenwood (Thirteen Days) stars as Roderick Usher, Fortunato Pharma's owner and wealthy magnate. The only thing greater than his riches is the list of laws and corporate violations that he and his company have got away with, mostly thanks to his corporate lawyer Arthur Pym, beautifully played by Mark Hamill (Star Wars) in one of the most intense roles he's ever taken on. Whatever you've done and whoever you've done it to, you want Pym in your corner.
Roderick's diverse and troubled gaggle of offspring are going to need him.
His children are a fascinatingly twisted lot, brilliantly played by a cast that have become staples in Flanagan's troupe.
Henry Thomas (Midnight Mass, ET) is eldest son Frederick, a coke sniffing loose cannon who manages to be a kiss ass and worthless at the same time. Frederick's wife Morella (Crystal Balint from "Midnight Mass") is a caring Mom to their daughter Lenore (Kyliegh Curran from Flanagan's superb film "Doctor Sleep").
Lenore is the most innocent of the Usher clan, a teenage voice of reason and morality swimming in a sewer of greed and ambition.
Samantha Sloyan, who was so brilliant as the self righteous Bev Keane in "Midnight Mass" plays Tamerlane Usher, determined to launch a self help brand to rival Goop. Her marriage to populist fitness guru Bill Wilson (Matt Biedel) unveils itself to be a very twisted arrangement.
Rahul Kohli (Sheriff Hassan in "Midnight Mass") is Leo Usher, driven by sex, drugs and emotion. He's got some of the funniest one liners of the lot while battling the family and a very vicious black cat.
T'Nia Miller plays daughter Victorine LaFourcade, on the scientific forefront of a new heart surgery technique that would change the world. Are the methods necessary to get there justified?
Lastly, Sauriyan Sapkota plays wild party boy and youngest bastard son of Roderick, Perry Usher. Wired by internet followers and a desire to create the most exclusive nightclub/orgy spot in the world, Perry is all lust and no brains.
Weaving in and out of all their lives is a mysterious woman with many guises. Played by Flanagan regular Carla Gugino, Verna goes from mystery woman to specter of the past. Gugino is excellent, moving from seductive to terrifying in the flash of a knife, or should I say pendulum?
The last major character is potentially the most evil of the bunch, Madeline Usher. She's Roderick's sister, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with her brother from a very young age. Played by Mary McDonnell (Dances with Wolves) she's a powerhouse not to be trifled with by anyone. All the scenes with Hamill, Greenwood and McDonnell are packed with great dialogue and acting, providing the solid base that everything else spirals off of with style.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention two other excellent performances. Ruth Codd as Roderick's current new wife, Juno. She's a hilarious and sadly sympathetic character, well crafted. Carl Lumbly stars as C. Auguste Dupin, a prosecutor whose been chasing Roderick's misdeeds for years. He weaves effortlessly through each episode as Roderick confesses the long and twisted tale of the dynasty to him.
Each of the chapters focuses in on one of the children, with underlying tones of death as the children are murdered one by one. The film opens at the funeral for three of them, so I'm not giving away any spoilers.
With episode titles like "A Midnight Dreary", "Masque of the Red Death", "Murder in the Rue Morgue" and "The Tell-Tale Heart", these are cleverly updated takes on the classic Poe tales, seamlessly woven into this modern tale.
Flanagan's hand is incredibly sure as he pulls you through many years and all these characters, weaving them into a massive tale of horror and supernatural comeuppance that often surprises and never flags over its eight episodes.
I couldn't stop watching them, one after the other.
It's eight hours and 13 minutes long, and it's fantastic.
For me, "Midnight Mass" was slightly better, but THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER still ranks as one of the best things available to stream right now. There is no better storyteller in the long format miniseries than Flanagan. Superb, grisly adult entertainment, it's not for the squeamish or the prudish.
For the rest of us, it doesn't get much better than this.
Poe famously said “Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality”.
Flanagan's mix of flawless dialogue and powerful visuals live up to Poe's legacy and only adds to his own.
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER gets an A.