Mike Flanagan self-references with The Fall of the House of Usher: this new series is linked to The Haunting…, Doctor Sleep, Midnight Sermons…
By connecting to Netflix in recent days, you may have come across a rather surprising trailer for Halloween, which teases all the projects for Mike Flanagan on the platform. Not a trailer for his latest series, The Fall of the House of Usherstrictly speaking, nor of its success The Haunting of Hill Housefrom its spin-off Bly Manorfrom his show for teenagers The Midnight Club or his films Not a sound Or Jessie. No, a mixture of all these, nicknamed the “Flanaverse”.
This trailer clearly illustrates the extent to which the screenwriter and director, who loves horror stories that actually evoke human drama, has made a name for himself on the platform. If his first films, Absentia (2011) and Occulus (2013) were productions of FallBack Plan/Blue Dot and Blumhouse, from Hush, his projects were broadcast on the red N platform. With a few exceptions, Ouija: The Origins being distributed by Universal and Doctor Sleep by Warner Bros. Flanagan also regularly co-produces his work, through his company Intrepid Pictures.
The Fall of the House of Usher appears as a sort of best-of of everything Flanagan has done so far, notably at Netflix, with whom he signs his latest collaboration here. From his casting to his narrative concepts through his technical team and his reflections on his own humanity, here is how the director signs a true “Flanagan series”.
Surround yourself with a loyal team
Since his beginnings, he has always worked like this, filming actors who were dear to him, like his former partner Courtney Bell in Absenthas and The Mirror. From HushIt is Kate Siegelwith whom he is in a relationship in the city, who shines in different roles in almost every project: revealed to the general public by this role of a deaf and mute woman doing everything to escape a violent assailant trying to enter her house, she amazed the spectators Hill House by playing the very sensitive Théo, then moved them once again with Bly Manor Or Midnight Sermons.
In Ushershe plays a role “impeccably detestable”underlines First in his critical, like the rest of the children of this cursed family. All are played by actors already part of the “Flanaverse” : Henry Thomas, Samantha Sloyan, T’Nia Miller, Rahul Kohli and Sauriyan Sapkota can all thank him for the memorable roles he gave them in his previous series and/or films.
In the same idea, the patriarch is brilliantly played by Bruce Greenwood, his star actor from Jessiewho was also in Doctor Sleep who even had fun playing one of the hidden ghosts of Hill House ! His talent is all the more obvious since he agreed to reprise this character as part of reshootsfollowing the firing of another actor, Frank Langella, for his inappropriate behavior on set.
Carla Guginowho played the heroine of her first adaptation of Stephen King, then the unhappy mother of The Haunting... is once again brilliant here, embodying ten characters in one thanks to the mysterious Verna. A role which can be seen as a more in-depth variation of Heather Langenkamp’s character in Midnight Club.
Several young actors from this series are also back, like Ruth Codd, who goes from disabled teenager feeling bad about herself to the new woman addicted to the medications of the patriarch of the Usher family; or Zach Gilford, who plays him younger in flashbacks (and who was even more central in Midnight Sermons). The scenes where he is with his sister, then played by Willa Fitzgerald costumed as Daisy from Gatsby the magnificentis an obvious nod to the same look as Katie Parker (aka Anabel Lee in Usher) featured in Hill House.
Mike Flanagan manages each time to recast actors that he has already made shine in memorable roles, to offer them new characters to play which are quite different from the previous ones. And which can therefore surprise the public without falling into repetition. For each new project, he also surrounds himself with newcomers, like here Mary McDowell (Independence Day) in Madeline Usher or Mark Hamill (do we still have to present the interpreter of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars ?) as a mysterious henchman.
Behind the scenes, there is also a loyal team that surrounds the creator of The Fall of the House of Usher : the episodes are co-written by Michael Fimognari, already on Hill House and the continuation of Shining -and also chief operator of the show-, Rebecca Klingel (on the two seasons of The Haunting…) or by his own brother Jamie Flanagan. The music is composed by other brothers, the Newtons, who have also already collaborated with Mike on the Haunting, Minui Sermonst or Midnight Massand who are also on a competing series this Halloween season: Goosebumps for Disney+.
Mike, on the other hand, was supported by a new editor, and production, makeup and costume designers that he did not know for this series.
Explore recurring themes in depth
The Haunting of Hill House is undoubtedly the best example of “style” Flanagan, who takes care to tell deeply human and dramatic stories under the guise of horror. Avoiding gratuitous jump-scares (or to make fun of them, as in Midnight Club), its protagonists are people suffering because they are suffering from a serious illness, addicted to drugs or alcoholics. The fantastic aspect is only a way for him to succeed in overcoming obstacles, the ghosts of the past haunting the beings of the present with their suffering, their secrets kept for too long…
By drawing inspiration from the work of Edgar Allan Poe, by playing with all the author’s morbid ideas, Flanagan can also address his own obsessions in Usher. The way Leo’s (Rahul Kohli) episode echoes that of Luke Crain’s (Oliver Jackson Cohen) in Hill House is particularly interesting: while he was shown as one of the most tragic characters in this family story, the fate of the new addict is much funnier and filmed in a playful way, constantly “play” with the themes of the short story The black Cat. The finality remains disastrous, but it is not at all treated in the same way.
Flanagan has publicly stated his withdrawal from alcohol, and he does not hesitate to speak openly about this subject in his fiction. It was partly the theme of alcoholism and recovery that drew him to Following Shining imagined by Stephen King, and there he keeps putting a glass of whiskey in the hand of his narrator, an object which will ultimately symbolize him at the very end of the story. The eldest son’s bar is also very reminiscent of that of Doctor Sleep. Details ? Yes, but they are far from trivial!
Mike Flanagan talks about the making of Doctor Sleep
Respect the Netflix contract without fearing winks
In addition to recycle the themes dear to PoeMike Flanagan fills in perfectly with Usher the Netflix charter. As on Ryan Murphy’s productions (Hollywood, Ratched, Dahmer, The Watcher…) for the firm, the series offers maximum diversity, including characters of all origins, sexual orientations or ages, and having different opinions on religions or the world around them. He is often critical of current society, moreover, appearing here as angry as Rian Johnson on his investigations At loggerheads. This way of denouncing the thirst for money and success at all costs, to the detriment of the well-being of one’s own family, was already present in his previous works, but more implicitly. There, he tackles the subject head-on, a bit like another successful series, Succession. Usher is an angry series, which hits where it hurts.
The horrific aspect is also very present, with very “graphics”, by turns fun or tragic. By orchestrating one violent death per episode, this series is aimed at fans of gore cinema who will have fun with this concept. She is thus much less sad than Hill House, Bly Manor Or Midnight Sermons, all of which contained heartbreaking scenes. She still manages to move people with the fate of a key character. Which we won’t spoil here, but which offers a saving contribution to the series, preventing it from sinking into absolute cynicism.
In this context of partnership with the platform, Flanagan does not hesitate to quote himself by showing young Leonore (Kyliegh Curran) looking for a program to watch on Netflix, and coming across Gerald’s Gameaka Jessie, in VF, one of his most critically acclaimed films! It’s not quite “Netflix and chill”since she is in the company of her mother, bedridden and in great pain, her body being completely burned, but this remains a huge advertisement for the flagship host of the “Flanaverse”.
Say goodbye to Netflix
If The Fall of the House of Usher is 100% a production of the group, it paradoxically marks the last collaboration between Mike Flanagan and the streaming site au N rouge. When season 2 of Midnight Club was canceled, he expressed his desire to move on, and quickly signed with the competition: he will adapt another work by Stephen King, The Dark Tower, for Prime Video. He also leaves with his friend Michael Fimognari.
This ultimate horror series, designed in total accordance with what Netflix expects from it, as well as the public who have been won over by Hill House Or Jessie, shows that he wanted to turn the page gently, and end in style with a story mixing elements taken from Poe’s literature as much as his own obsessions. A way to close the “Flanaverse” at Netflix and continue its development elsewhere, having made the most of this experience.
The Haunting of Hill House: get a good scare in Netflix’s haunted house! (critical)