A brilliant look at Edgar Allan Poe in The House of Usher

It’s a bloody family affair portrayed by Mike Flanagan and Edgar Allan Poe in The Fall of the House of Usher, one of the best series Netflix has produced.

Two of the most anticipated streaming series of the season—Netflix’s The Fall of the House of Usher and Apple TV+’s Chemistry Lessons—come from the literary world. But does this transition from page to screen work?

Oh yes.

Here’s our review.

“The Fall of the House of Usher”: It’s risky to modernize or repurpose classic works of literature and try to create something unique and forward-thinking in the process. Even Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuaron failed with the misguided film Great Expectations, starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow.

But ace horror director Mike Flanagan could write a textbook on how to do it right with his eight-episode ode to legendary horror writer Edgar Allan Poe. This inspired “Usher” gives Poe’s horror tales a contemporary relevance and respects the source material.

Flanagan’s macabre version of Poe’s tale of familial depravity and madness serves as the setting for And Then There Were None, which murders the soulless members of a privileged, ultra-rich family that built its base of wealth by addicting Americans to painkillers.

This dynasty is ruled by a vile couple with a rotten childhood, to say the least: brother Roderick (an underrated Bruce Greenwood) and his treacherous sister Madeline (an equally underrated Mary McDonnell).

By all accounts, Roderick is the head patriarch, but he has difficulty gathering together his narcissistic adult children (heirs), each of whom have twisted dark sides that lead them down a bloody path to a Poe-inspired destiny. Flanagan wrote or co-wrote all but one episode, and the script is as sharp and damn smart as his signature works like The Haunting of Hill House, Midnight Mass and the underrated standalone Doctor Sleep. “.”

The creepy production values ​​are top-notch and the scares are as disturbing as they are scary. (“Usher” is gorier and contains more sex than Flanagan’s last series). The cast is consistently strong, featuring a gruff Mark Hamill as Usher’s extremely busy lawyer Arthur Pym, who tries to sort out the family’s many turmoil. Another treat is seeing Flanagan’s regular Carla Gugino as a mysterious presence appearing throughout Roderick and Madeline’s lives. It all makes for ghoulish entertainment that’s well-suited for the upcoming Halloween season. Make no mistake, however: this is not just an addictive streamer; The Fall of the House of Usher has proven to be one of the best series Netflix has ever produced. Details: 4 stars out of 4; All episodes will be released on October 13.

“Chemistry Lessons”: Ask any book club member to pick one of their favorite novels of 2022, and chances are Bonnie Garmus’ charming novel starring a quirky smartass with one of the best names of all time will appear on the list: Elizabeth Zott. While I’m lucky I didn’t read it ahead of time, I’ll definitely do so after watching showrunner Lee Eisenberg’s touching eight-episode adaptation for Apple TV+.

I can see why Chemistry Lessons has found a favorite spot on bookshelves everywhere. But as fans know, sharing too much about what happens to Elizabeth (played eccentrically by Oscar winner Brie Larson) would be a recipe for hate mail. Suffice to say, she plays a brilliant chemist whose career is tainted by the patriarchy that ruled the scientific world in the 50s. What can also be said is that there is great chemistry between Larsen and Lewis Pullman as plucky chemist Calvin Evans, who shares the same passion as her and is just as socially awkward. A turn of events upends their careers and sets the resilient Elizabeth on the path to a subversive cooking show. “Chemistry Lessons” could have been tighter (cut to six episodes), and the plot of black neighbor Harriet (Aja Naomi King) fighting racial injustice could have been more developed. However, Chemistry eventually comes up with a winning formula. And one episode, told from the point of view of the family dog ​​Six Thirty (voice of B.J. Novak), will tear you apart, especially if you have a pet. Details: 3 stars; two episodes will be released on October 13, and a new episode will be released every Friday until November 24.

“Enemy”: What plays out well on paper doesn’t translate so well to the screen in Garth Davis’s flawed but very beautiful version of Ian Reid’s ambitious sci-fi-tinged psychological drama. Its central premise of a stranger (Aaron Pierre) making an unusual proposal that calls into question the relationship of an isolated couple (Paul Mescal and Saoirse Ronan) in a farmhouse and separates them for an extended period of time is truly intriguing, but the unpredictable twists and turns of the script written Davis and Reed end up ringing false and becoming a pretentious, impenetrable mess. There are big themes explored here, including artificial intelligence, but the disturbing material gets too convoluted and becomes laughable at times, distracting us from the plight of these two, who seem to waste a hell of a lot of water while playing. drought that is killing the planet. This is just one of the puzzling aspects of the production, which unfortunately wastes the talents of Mescal and Ronan and their excellent production skills. Just read the book. Details: 1½ stars; opens Oct. 13 at San Francisco theaters and Oct. 20 at the Piedmont Theater in Oakland.

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