Mike Flanagan’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ Could Be a Major Formula Shift

Mike Flanagan’s name might sound too new to add to the list of legendary horror writers. He’s been developing some truly horrific ideas for over two decades now, finding success in suspenseful thrillers like Hush and Oculus, or in multi-layered horror dramas like The Haunting Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, or Midnight Mass. Yet there are undoubtedly some who would still hesitate to put his name next to the likes of Stephen King, Bram Stoker, or Mary Shelley.

Despite the drama, suspense, and extremely poignant subtext found in his more recent Netflix titles. Storytelling that lovingly pays homage to the literary ghouls and monsters of horror’s past while introducing new and refreshing mythos that beg to be explored.

Well, Flanagan will once again have to reach into horror fiction’s past in order to push toward the future; this time with an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher.

Edgar Allan Poe is a name that you’d probably near the top of the list of horror legends. Many of the most famous names on that list were inspired in some way by Poe, who is seen as one of the earliest influences on contemporary gothic/horror fiction. Mike Flanagan’s The Fall of the House of Usher will serve as a loose adaptation of Poe’s short story of the same name, but will also reportedly incorporate elements from some of his other works. Knowing Flanagan’s writing style, especially with his The Haunting Netflix adaptations, this new series will likely incorporate original ideas as well. Mike Flanagan will team up with his fellow Intrepid Pictures partners, including co-director Michael Fimognari, to create the new series for Netflix.

But that’s not all. Flanagan took to Twitter to share the news of the story (broken by Deadline) and express his excitement to work on the show.

With that, he also revealed that the show would be like “nothing else we’ve ever done.” Obviously, The Fall of the House of Usher will share that same Mike Flanagan seal of quality as his previous work — but there is enough reason to suspect that it could be a huge formulaic shift for the auteur.

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOR THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER AND MIDNIGHT MASS BELOW.

But that’s only one small, possible reason the series could differ from previous Flanagan/Netflix projects. The real reason is a lot… scalier.

The original short story by Edgar Allan Poe features plenty of aspects that could make their way to Mike Flanagan’s Netflix adaptation. For example, it’s two-man act. Technically speaking, there are only three characters in the short work (four if you want to get even more technical, but more on that later). One of them unexpectedly goes away for reasons I won’t get into in case you plan on reading it yourself, so for the majority of the tale we’re left with just two characters. Now, given that Flanagan’s version will include elements from other works of Poe’s, there is chance we’ll have a larger cast. But if the Netflix adaptation were to keep a small cast, it would certainly differ from Flanagan’s usual ensemble cast style.

Elements of Fantasy?

Edgar Allan Poe is known mostly for his works in horror and gothic fiction. “The Raven” being one of his most recognizable and influential works. Other stories by Poe, like Lenore, The Masque of the Red Death, or Annabel Lee, all deal with similar topics as “The Raven;” mystery, regret, love, and death. But like any great writer, sometimes Poe would just throw a really strange screwball out of nowhere. And he nailed it with The Fall of the House of Usher.

Though most of the story is classic Poe horror — a creepy, empty house, an illness of some kind, spooky tombs and cold chills in the air — at the center of it is a story about a knight and a dragon. Ethelred, a knight in search of shelter from a storm, comes across a palace full of gold guarded by a dragon. A fairly cliché knight’s tale, and not completely out of place in Poe’s library of the strange and macabre.

But much like everything in this story, this fantasy nested in a horror/mystery serves a purpose. Again, without giving too much away, the story of the knight and the dragon offers some real-life parallels for the characters of The Fall of the House of Usher.

Should Flanagan even choose to use this aspect of the story, it’s possible that it could just be a simple monologue by a character. Similar to how Flanagan has used subtext in dialogue in previous shows. But if he chose to tell the story of Ethelred a bit more visually, it would certainly be something different.

Flanagan hasn’t really gone into full-fledged fantasy with his Netflix adaptations. The closest being a certain character in Midnight Mass (later, several characters), but even that’s more of a gothic horror/horror-fantasy element. With The Fall of the House of Usher, Flanagan could show his prowess for elements outside of horror, and the versatility of his work.

Even if there isn’t a real, fire-breathing dragon in The Fall of the House of Usher, there’s still plenty of elements that will make it stand out from other Flanagan adaptations. Going back to a time and place of spooky, gothic horror means we’ll see vastly different locales and different kinds of haunts; both figuratively and literally.

Stay tuned for more info about Netflix’s The Fall of the House of Usher!

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