The Fall of the House of Usher: The Masque of the Red Death
October 17, 2023 7:13 AM - Season 1, Episode 2 - Subscribe

Motivated by money and revenge, Perry hosts an exclusive masque-rave that takes a twisted turn. A young Roderick pitches a revolutionary new opioid.

"They’re melting, they’re melting, what a world, what a world. Perry, at the center of the dance floor, lives just long enough to get a kiss from Verna, who leaves her mask and wanders off into the night. Consider the Usher family on notice."—from Scott Meslow's 4-star review at Vulture

"Usher feels designed to be like a haunted house, or even Prospero’s party — a new wonderful and terrible thing to see behind every door. Based on the work Flanagan and his cowriter Emily Grinwis have done here, I’m content to see each door get opened in turn."—from Sean T. Collins' review at Decider
posted by bcwinters (8 comments total)
As a former nightclub professional, the Usher family was absolutely right in not investing in Prospero's idea. The idea had some potential, but based on this proof of concept Prospero absolutely was not the person to run it. His staffing was terrible. He needed far more bartenders, and at a club like that one would expect there'd be some tables with bottle service. Also, if it's your opening night and you're running the place, you should be staying relatively sober so you can keep your eyes out for problems. And your closest sycophants should be doing the same. And the interiors needed something to bring them beyond "generic 1990s nightclub." You can make a one-off look a lot more interesting than that, especially if you don't care about cleaning up after. Plus, if you blackmail your clientele they will tell their friends to avoid your place.

I'm not making fun of the show here - I actually think it's a pretty good "show don't tell" example of "no, really, he's crap at this."

We are in the Year of Our Lord 2023 and "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails is still being used as an audio cue for nightclub decadence. That song is going to be 30 years old next year. It would be like using "All Day and All Of The Night" by the Kinks in a sexy nightclub episode of the X-Files.
posted by rednikki at 9:18 AM on October 18, 2023 [17 favorites]

The idea had some potential, but based on this proof of concept Prospero absolutely was not the person to run it.

I would have hoped that someone whose friends grind up pills using butt plugs would have at least one confidant who would tell him his plan was just a lukewarm Horse Meat Disco :(
posted by bcwinters at 9:37 AM on October 18, 2023 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I also thought Prospero's idea was supposed to be bad and/or unimpressive, though admittedly the blackmail angle was interesting. Surely you couldn't get away with that for long though? Like, that's not a sustainable basis for a business: blackmailed clients are not repeat clients! Even if he tried to act like he had nothing to do with the blackmail, surely it's just common sense to avoid the location you've been blackmailed about.

Anyway, extremely grisly ending to this one! I kept expecting the camera to, like, pan away or the shot to fade to spare us the worst, but nope! It never did! Horrifying!

My one question after watching the whole series is: of all the Usher deaths, this is the one with the most collateral damage. The staff got warnings from Verna and cleared out, and we see Morella get a warning but ignore it. Are we meant to assume Verna did the same for the rest of the partygoers, who were all too high to care? I have to assume so, otherwise it's just not that consistent that Verna's willing to spare the staff (who admittedly did not sign up for the drugged orgy blackmail, just to work at it) and Morella, but not all those other people.

Also re the music choices, there was another throwback in there: a remix/cover of Chris Isaak's Wicked Game. Weirdly dated music picks tbh! Good ones, just dated. Though admittedly I can't think of a better song to soundtrack a drugged club orgy that will have a terrible end than NIN's Closer.

Oh, wait, I have one more question: at first, I assumed Prospero's death was, basically, entirely his own doing. Like this horrorshow would have happened more or less the same whether or not Verna was involved. But then I remembered that when Prospero looked at the building, he saw Verna on the roof, which presumably drew his attention to the barrels up there, the ones he uses as his "water" source. Was this Verna putting her finger on the scale, or would it have all gone down like this anyway? Like, maybe fewer casualties if the doors hadn't been locked shut, but presumably you'd still have many people including Prospero in very bad shape or killed from the acid and the ensuing stampede to get out.
posted by yasaman at 11:03 AM on October 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

I like this "House" limited series much better than Flanagan's previous two, if only because it fully commits to being as bonkers as possible. The fact that the source material has already been mined by pop culture within an inch of its life also, somehow, makes the extremely tenuous connection of the show to said source material much more palatable to me than the previous seasons.

All that said, I'm mad that we didn't get a chopped and screwed Chris Isaak yodel as part of that Wicked Game cover.
posted by quatsch at 11:57 AM on October 19, 2023

Yeah, I also thought Prospero's idea was supposed to be bad and/or unimpressive, though admittedly the blackmail angle was interesting.

IMO his idea is a joke from other Netflix show "Inventing Ana", who actually scammed a bunch of hotels and banks for basically the same 'exclusive' (became almost comedic on the show) club idea, though hers was (probably) not a sex club. I assume that considering how many other Netflix shows the show has mentioned (I'm not remembering right now, but at least the Is It Cake? made an appearance and I think a few others.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:11 AM on October 23, 2023 [1 favorite]

his plan was just a lukewarm Horse Meat Disco

I never expected a Horse Meat Disco ref on MeFi, so thank you for the delighted cackle.

One of the reviews pointed out the hopelessly outdated sex-negativity of the whole setup. People definitely deserve to be dissolved alive because they might enjoy some (I'm going to project here) consensual group play? Such lazy telegraphed debauchery, NiN and all. I had to laugh. The fact that it was done in such a sterile and unsexy way feels like an appropriately clumsy choice. It wasn't The Idol, but still.

Props indeed for the commitment to the denouement, though.
posted by mykescipark at 8:39 PM on October 24, 2023

awww I thought Closer really worked but then not only am I a YUGE NIN fan but also that song was out when I was in my clubbing days in the 90s /old
posted by supermedusa at 9:03 AM on November 1, 2023

Okay, that's some distressingly disturbing Carla Gugino hotness, there.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:47 PM on November 4, 2023 [1 favorite]

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