THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. Through the Dark Mirror with Edgar Allan Poe [REVIEW]

Mike Flanagan in 2023, cleverly modernized the narrative even more so that a younger generation could be interested in a great writer like Edgar Allan Poe.

Odys Korczyński

14 October 2023

E.A. Poe deserved an extraordinary cinematic presentation. In his time, he was not always treated with respect, not inspiring large masses of readers. He collected them over the years, painstakingly, as if counting on posthumous fame. He finally achieved it. The most commercially known adaptation of “The Fall of the House of Usher” appeared in 1960. Roger Corman, in his “cheap” style, attempted and succeeded in giving a unique visual form to Poe’s novella, preserving the atmosphere of the time of the story. Another worth mentioning was in 1989, by the less-known Alan Birkinshaw, who metaphorically added cars to Poe.

This contemporary style was maintained by Mike Flanagan in 2023, cleverly modernizing the narrative even more so that a younger generation could be interested in a great writer like Edgar Allan Poe. In the latest version, we find a great cast, a skillful blend of horror with drama and comedy about the corrupt upper echelons, almost a socialist critique of the wealthy bourgeoisie, and all those representations of human experiences that are potential elements of every young, culturally open Western consumer’s life. Sometimes they are destructive, even deadly, but usually each of us carries some of these experiences within, even if we don’t always want to remember them while reading fairy tales to children and telling them what they should be like when they grow up.

Attention! Minor spoilers below.

There’s no denying that the series includes LGBT themes, multiculturalism, multiracialism, pop culture, free cannabis, contemporary music, a conspiracy of pharmaceutical corporations on Instagram, evil rich people driving Ferraris, hashtags, lemon suppositories fighting toxins, DNA, and all other libertine values that are secretly loved by conservative film dissenters. However, all these themes are so integrated into the literature written in the 19th century by Edgar Allan Poe that this world is considered coherent, logically consistent with the passage of time since the first publication of “The Fall of the House of Usher” in 1839, through subsequent incredible stories associated with the Fall in subsequent episodes, accompanied by the death of the beautifully faced and bodied Carla Gugino. Bruce Greenwood as Roderick Usher and Carl Lumbly as Auguste Dupin accompany her. Somewhere in the background occasionally appears surprisingly good in acting Mark Hamill as Arthur Pym.

The core of the series is a conversation, or rather the confession of the cursed patriarch Roderick Usher, who tells the prosecutor how all his children died, and he himself became a brilliant collaborator of death. Each explanation he gives in the peculiar, dying with his family home, every corpse he sees in those walls leads us to a mad and deathly finale. But before we get there, we will travel through the most important stories of Poe, from “The Masque of the Red Death” to “The Raven.” You don’t need to know them, but it would be good to look at the series more closely and easier to understand the metaphors used by Mike Flanagan, and sometimes thought shortcuts. In them may lie a problem for viewers who puristically treat the novels of the 19th-century writer. They may accuse Flanagan of sliding rapidly over successive motifs, but he had to treat so many of Poe’s novels a bit more sketchily. However, this does not hinder anything because Poe’s works are not the only constitutive element of the world presented in the series.

We find many references to culture, films, music. We will go on an aesthetic journey through various eras, American, of course, but still completely different chronologically than our present one, as well as past years in Europe. The plot is based on a conversation between two people, Roderick and Auguste. Numerous flashbacks showing successive characters and their downfall accompany them. From episode to episode, the whole family falls, and Roderick seems to remain unchanged, but it’s a facade. The structure of the series, despite flashbacks, is linear and adheres to intuitive chronology. Closer to the finale, there are fewer direct references to Poe. They become more and more hidden, subtle, noticeable when some scenes are watched several times. It is also necessary to listen carefully to the dialogues and even turn on the original subtitles to notice that sometimes the characters travesty Poe’s lyrics, as much of his literary work was poetry, not prose. There is strength in this approach by the creators, in this multi-layered interpretation of the writer’s legacy, filtering it through contemporary semantics to show who people become when their spirits, evil beings, demons dominate them, only not those from another world, dimension, hell, haunted house, etc. It’s about ideas created by physical people, goals that become more important than life, than anything – they become more dangerous than all the demons known to us from the beginning of the history of the world.

This journey with Allan Edgar Poe in the series has yet another most important, psychological dimension, formulated in Poe’s entire body of work. There is always such a moment in life, just before any reckless decision, when you can still turn back, if you are, of course, in your right mind. The paradox, however, is that precisely at these crucial moments, you are already so far that you cannot turn back. You are in the dark mirror, which only those who have never looked into it can see. E.A. Poe wrote about such characters, preparing his readers for the inevitable – a humble death.

Odys Korczyński

Odys Korczyński

For years he has been passionate about computer games, in particular RPG productions, film, medicine, religious studies, psychoanalysis, artificial intelligence, physics, bioethics, as well as audiovisual media. He considers the story of a film to be a means and a pretext to talk about human culture in general, whose cinematography is one of many splinters.

See other posts from this author >>>