Just in time for the cool air and haunty vibes of October, Netflix released a brand new limited series, Fall of the House of Usher (House of Usher). The title should sound familiar as it is one of the most famous titles authored by the King Spooky himself, Edgar Allan Poe.
The series centers around the Poe tale of the same name but in vignette style tackles other famous Poe stories and poems each episode.
With the indomitable Carla Gugino (Spy Kids) as the show’s centerpiece, House of Usher, presents itself as the perfect October entertainment snack.
The Conservative Critic asks; is it entertaining? Does it have intellectual/artistic value? And is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: The Fall of the House of Usher
Overall Rating: Goth Gold
House of Usher is ~vibes~ comes to life. One of the better odes to the great Poe, the series is equal parts spook and kook, vamp and camp. The modern retelling of the classic Poe tales wrapped up into the singular imagery of The Fall of the House of Usher works stunningly well proving that Poe’s stories hold up in any generation, era, and conceptualization. Creator and Director Mike Flannigan is no stranger to the genre having worked almost exclusively in the beautiful but scary and television market perhaps most notably The Haunting of Hill House. His expertise paid off. The loving attention paid to Poe’s original themes and stories mixed with the edgy modernized plot line and visuals really make the series something special. Despite its desperate attempt at liberal ideology, the show is worthy of a watch for lovers of Poe or just lovers of an aesthetically pleasing, more-ridiculous-than-scary, spook fest.
Is it entertaining?
Rating: Insane in a good way
The reason House of Usher is such a good watch is that it does not take itself too seriously. The plot of the story walks viewers through a sequence of inevitable deaths (not totally dissimilar albeit very different visually to the Final Destination franchise) which creates delicious tension as viewers wonder how each character will face their ultimate demise and which Poe story is being recreated (some are more obvious than others). One of the most fun parts of the series is wondering how the modern retelling will replicate the victorian era deaths written by Poe. They do so without a hitch, some very literally the same and others more referential and cheeky. The characters marching toward their death are made to be as unlikable as humanly possible, so there is no sympathy or bad feelings about their sinister and bizarre deaths.
The campiness of the gore really steals its power in a good way. Those who are too squeamish for horror (like me) have nothing to worry about.With limited exceptions and sequences short enough to cover eyes without missing anything, House of Usher does not attempt to truly disturb it’s viewer. It seeks to and succeeds in merely unsettling it’s audience. The drama will be so wild that it’s a little funny and then suddenly a little too real. Just a bit off. Perfect scary fun.
It’s a sensational good time if you like shock and creep.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
Rating: Literary delight
House of Usher is clever and beautiful. The cinematography is really interesting for a made for streaming mini-series with lovely symmetry and staging displayed through booms and wide angles. The series leans heavily into the dark academia and glamorous gothic aesthetics which is a treat to look at and the perfect artistic vibe for Poe’s work retold.
The care given to Poe’s works and the literary credibility of the stories is impressive. Clearly, Fannigan is a true fan of America’s greatest author. Gugino is the centerpiece of the tale and plays Verna which is appropriately an anagram for Raven, Poe’s greatest work and a most closely associated symbol. The show weaves in and out of literal story interpretation and more flexible interpretations. Some of the stories, it isn’t clear until the very end which Poe tale is being told and others are glaringly obvious. The effect makes the story slightly more unpredictable. Because viewers already know which characters die from the beginning, the mixing of obvious and veiled Poe stories keeps everyone engaged.
Gugino is perfection in her role and leads the story with a firmly menacing hand. Ruth Codd as the patriarch’s new wife, Juno, is at once effective comedic relief and moral centerpoint. Codd, who is essentially a newcomer, truly walks a fine line between vulnerable, hilarious and impressive. She steals the show. America’s favorite Skywalker, Mark Hamil himself brings something special and credible to his part as a ghoulish “fixer” for the titular Usher family. For once, viewers might not immediately recognize Hamil and it’s one of his bigger departures which he performs very well.
Overall, the concept, writing, design, direction and performance of House of Usher is incredible and spot on.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: It really wanted to be
The politics of House of Usher are complicated. It gets a liberal propaganda warning because it’s clear that’s what it wanted to be. Motive matters. Plus Mark Hammil is in it. However, it does accidentally espouse quite a few conservative ideas which make it intellectually palatable despite its best efforts.
The characters occasionally do that annoying thing where they just monologue political talking points. First of all: viewers are smart enough to pick up on moral lessons without being read them explicitly. It’s bull. It’s lazy. And it insults the viewer. In the case of House of Usher, it was very clear what the themes of the story were without being force fed.
Some of those monologues, particularly one at the end, regurgitate liberal talking points about abortion and and the slave labor force of a capitalist society [insert eye roll]. They are pretty easy to ignore and thankfully very short otherwise they might have spoiled an otherwise wonderful series.
Hilariously, the natural themes (not force fed through tedious monologue) are actually pretty conservative. For example, Big Pharma is not painted in a very good light. Test results for drugs are faked, and there is clear corruption. You know who hates “Big Pharma” right now? Certainly not liberals who all agreed that Americans should be forced to have a vaccine created by three major Pharma cos with limited oversight and a lot of taxpayer money. It’s conservatives who are skeptical of Phamra agreements. It’s conservatives who are mad that Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs is doing Pfizer vaccine commercials. Liberals are Big Pharma shills in the truest sense of the word shill.
Additionally, deviant sexual behavior is really villainized and made to be very sinister. In one of the first episodes, one of those destined to death throws a large scale orgie. And his sexual promiscuity and obsession results in the deaths and injuries of many others. It is never portrayed as normal or okay that he wants to have large sex parties. It is portrayed as dark and even scary that he wants those things.
Additionally, another character headed for death (in my opinion the least deserving of the gruesome deaths), is shown to have a sexual fetish where she watches her husband have a nice evening with a hired woman who essentially plays her (or his wife) and then has sex with her. This secret fetish is portrayed as this woman’s downfall. As a character flaw. It is shown as something that embarasses her husband and has caused her life problems.
So even though the script really wanted to present liberal truth and justice it actually did the very opposite many times.
House of Usher has perfect Halloween vibes and is a wonderful homage to the great Edgar Allan Poe. Highly recommend.