Mike Flanagan’s Adaptation of The Fall of the House of Usher Could Be the Next Horror to Watch Out For

Halloween might have just ended, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t keep the horror coming. 2022 has been a standout year for the horror genre at the box office, not to mention the noticeably high-quality releases we have seen lately, such as Smile, Terrifier 2, Nope and Barbarian. Any concerns one might have for 2023 rest a little easier, as next year will see the release of the next Mike Flanagan series The Fall of the House of Usher, which is an adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe short story of the same name.

For those unfamiliar with Flanagan’s extensive and acclaimed work, he has shifted between television and feature length films over his career, including movies such as Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Gerald’s Game and Doctor Sleep, and silver screen shows The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and Midnight Mass. Bear in mind, this is a selective list of Flanagan’s credits, all of which he creates, writes, and directs himself, making him inarguably the most prolific horror filmmaker in the recent years. 

Edgar Allan Poe, then, was a prolific artist in his own right, with his most significant works consisting of short stories and poems. A significant figure in the history of American literature, Poe was instrumental in the development of gothic writing and is even credited with having created the detective fiction genre with his short story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, while “The Raven” is considered one of the most famous poems ever, its status bolstered by persistent parodies since its publishing, perhaps most famously by The Simpsons in one of its Halloween specials. “The Fall of the House of Usher” is considered amongst Poe’s best and most famous works also, told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator who visits the titular house at the request of his friend Roderick Usher, who, along with his sister Madeline, are the two remaining members of their family. However, the narrator grows concerned of his friend’s mental well-being, who even believes his house to be alive, and after the apparent death of Madeline, Roderick further declines only for a shocking revelation to bring about the downfall of House Roderick. The short story features many recurring themes of Poe’s, namely concepts of madness, isolation, and being buried alive (you read right), which are weaved into a distinctly gothic tale.

There are numerous reasons why Mike Flanagan is the most qualified filmmaker to adapt a classic Poe tale, first and foremost being his undeniable talent for directing intelligent, character-driven horrors, but his choice to adapt “The Fall of the House of Usher” is particularly interesting because it shares a common thread with much of Flanagan’s work, specifically his proclivity for centring narratives on individual locations that imbue thematic meaning. 

The Haunting of Hill House and its spiritual successor, The Haunting of Bly Manor, each focus on the supernatural goings on of their titular houses and the influence upon characters who come to reside within them; Hush centres on a deaf woman who lives in the middle of the woods and must defend against a sadistic serial killer; and Gerald’s Game is about bondage gone wrong, as a woman is left handcuffed to a bed after her husband dies of a heart attack, left only with her inner demons and a will to survive. As you can see, location is central to much of the themes and character work of his productions, which is just what an adaptation of The Fall of the House of Usher calls for, given Poe’s own inclination towards “totality”, which is to say that everything in the short story – from the house itself to even the seemingly innocuous recanting of The Mad Trist is related to the greater whole.

Flanagan’s own reverence for Poe is clear not only in his work – upon which Poe has undoubtedly had a resonating influence – but also in the cast and characters he has chosen to include. Legendary Canadian actor Bruce Greenwood will play Roderick Usher (replacing Frank Langella after allegations of misconduct), who has worked with Flanagan before on Gerald’s Game alongside Carla Gugino, who also has a leading role in the miniseries. If this wasn’t already impressive enough, Oscar nominee Mary McDonnell will play Madeline Usher, in addition to Mark Hamill, Henry Thomas, and Flanagan’s wife and frequent collaborator Kate Siegel in undisclosed roles. Perhaps the most ingenious character to be included is C. Auguste Dupin, played by Carl Lumbly, who was a recurring character in three of Poe’s short stories, the first being the aforementioned “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, yet he never appeared in “The Fall of the House of Usher”, adding further to the promising direction Flanagan is taking his adaptation.

While there is always the chance that my judgement is clouded by my love for the works of both Edgar Allan Poe and Mike Flanagan, everything so far points to what might be one of Flanagan’s most accomplished works to date, and certainly something to look forward to as we move into 2023. Shooting took place in Vancouver from January to July this year, though its Netflix release date has yet to be announced. 

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