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Mike Flanagan explains how he & his writers adapted (almost) all of Edgar Allan Poe for Netflix's Fall of the House of Usher

At Emerald City Comic Con, The Fall of the House of Usher director said that "the first step is finding academic experts"

Image credit: Netflix

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"The first month of our writers' room was book reports," Mike Flanagan tells a packed room at Emerald City Comic Con 2024. "we had to divvy up the entire collection among the writers, because nobody had time to read everything. I was like, alright, [...] we're gonna come back and we're gonna do presentations for the class."

The writers room Flanagan is talking about is the one for Netflix's The Fall of the House of Usher, a hot topic at the Across the Flanaverse panel from ECCC '24. And the "entire collection" he's referring to is the complete bibliography of Edgar Allan Poe, the inspiration for Flanagan's frightful festoon of family drama. As you know if you've seen it, the show turns that varied bibliography into a singular story - but just how did Flanagan & Co. pull that off?

"The first step," says the Doctor Sleep directir, "is finding academic experts and getting them into the room."

The academic expert Flanagan & co. found was Mat Johnson, who Flanagan says "knows Poe forward and backward." A creative writing professor at the University of Oregon, Johnson's 2011 novel Pym is a sequel to Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. With their professor in place, homework began.

The purpose of Flanagan's "book reports" and the presentations that followed wasn't merely to get a passing grade, however, it was to uncover common themes and use those as a foundation of the story. Flanagan says the process was similar to what he and Netflix did with The Haunting of Bly Manor; taking the works of Henry James (whose Turn of the Screw inspired the show) and creating "a crazy cover band" adaptation - "Something that takes all the pieces, breaks them apart and builds something new."

The result was nothing short of incredible. Out of 69 short stories, around 50 poems, one novel, and a mountain of cultural criticism, the House of Usher creative team made something akin to the horror of one of Poe's most famous works - very deep, utterly terrifying, and with a preserved heartbeat.

"It's a very scholastic exercise," says Flanagan of this creative process, "and it's so fun. It's not the best way to adapt some things for sure, but it's something I've really, really enjoyed."

So did we, Mike. So did we.

The Fall of the House of Usher is streaming now on Netflix. If you want to learn more about it, plus hear from director/writer/star Kate Siegel, check out the Across the Flanaverse panel, streaming for Popverse premium members Thursday, March 28.

Plunge the catacombs of the creepy with Popverse's Mike Flanagan watch order, and watch our hour-long conversation with Flanagan and actor/co-writer Kate Siegel.

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Grant DeArmitt avatar

Grant DeArmitt

Contributing writer

Grant DeArmitt (he/him) likes horror, comics, and the unholy pairing of the two. He has written for Nightmare on Film Street and Newsarama, despite their better judgement. He lives in Brooklyn with his partner, Kelsey, and corgi, Legs.