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It does not matter how vicious your killer is, how vengeful your ghostly apparitions are, or how many gallons of blood you pour onto the screen because, in most cases, horror movies live or die by the strength of their stories. One filmmaker who understands (and has mastered) this better than most working today is Mike Flanagan, the creator of The Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass, which is his upcoming 2021 Netflix TV series that is set to premiere in September.
In anticipation of that new thriller and in honor of one of the horror genre’s most impressive careers in recent memory, the following is a look back on the best Mike Flanagan movies (and TV shows, of course) that you can watch on streaming, VOD, or home video if you prefer, starting with one of his most popular and acclaimed titles yet.
The Haunting Of Hill House (2018)
Several years after suffering strange and traumatic events at their former home that have ultimately torn them apart, a family struggles to come to grips with the fact that the past still seems to be haunting them to this day, and in more ways than they may even realize.
Why it is one of Mike Flanagan’s best: Using author Shirley Jackson’s classic and influential ghost story of the same name as merely a jumping off point, creator Mike Flanagan (who also directs all ten episodes) crafts Netflix’s miniseries adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House into a grounded, heart-wrenching, and beautifully acted family drama elevated by some unbelievably impressive technical mastery and some of the most indelibly frightening images ever shot… if you can spot them all, that is.
The Haunting Of Bly Manor (2020)
After suffering a traumatic event involving a former lover, an American woman (The Haunting of Hill House’s Victoria Pedretti) accepts a job as an au pair for a charming, orphaned brother and sister at a beautiful mansion in England, maintained by a friendly crew of others, yet the house still appears to be burdened by more than just its recent tragedies.
Why it is one of Mike Flanagan’s best: Using Henry James’ classic novel The Turning of the Screw and more of the author’s work as merely a nice starting point, creator Mike Flanagan (who only directs the first episode) crafts The Haunting of Bly Manor, Netflix’s unconnected follow-up miniseries to The Haunting of Hill House, into a heartbreaking and, once again, beautifully acted romantic tragedy that may not benefit from the same technical mastery, but is certainly not without it shock and awe-inspiring moments.
After years of suffering since her husband suddenly went missing without a trace, a woman (Courtney Bell) invites her estranged sister (The Haunting of Bly Manor’s Katie Parker) to move in with her right as she is ready to accept that he may be dead and finally move on, until new and unexplainable evidence linked to the disappearance begins to come to the surface.
Why it is one of Mike Flanagan’s best: Before he brought his celebrated gifts for storytelling to the mainstream, Mike Flanagan wrote and directed Absentia, which, despite its clearly low budget, is a frighteningly bizarre and even more frighteningly relatable bedtime story for adults that is one of the best movies on Shudder and easily the best of the filmmaker’s work that you might not have seen yet, but definitely should… just not alone.
Several years after he suffered strange events at his former home, a young man (Brenton Thwaites) is released from a mental institution and is finally ready to move on with his life, until he is suddenly forced to confront the past again by his older sister (Karen Gillan), who is convinced that an antique mirror is truly the cause for their tragic childhood.
Why it is one of Mike Flanagan’s best: Before exploring the complexities of how families process trauma in Netflix’s aforementioned Haunting series, writer and director Mike Flanagan exploded onto the mainstream with the Blumhouse produced thriller Oculus, which is also one of the best Karen Gillan movies, in my opinion, for its astonishingly clever, emotionally moving, and relentlessly chilling execution of an otherwise overdone concept.
Ouija: Origin Of Evil (2016)
In 1967, a Los Angeles charlatan (The Haunting of Hill House’s Elizabeth Reaser) purchases a Ouija board hoping it may help improve her performance when staging seances, but it only seems to cause more tension between her and her two daughters (Oculus star Annalise Basso and Annabelle: Creation’s Lulu Wilson), especially when the youngest begins to show dramatic and upsetting changes in behavior.
Why it is one of Mike Flanagan’s best: Speaking of clever, moving, and chilling executions of otherwise overdone concepts, writer and director Mike Flanagan’s Ouija: Origin Of Evil is a prequel that most agree majorly improves on its predecessor (the 2014 board game adaptation Ouija) as both another investing family drama and a love letter to ghost stories of Hollywood’s golden age.
Before I Wake (2016)
Years after they suffered a tragic loss, a woman (Kate Bosworth) and her husband (Thomas Jane) decide to adopt an 8-year-old boy (future Doctor Sleep star Jacob Tremblay) hoping it may help improve their marriage, only to discover that the child possesses an unusual, uncontrollable gift that makes him a danger to himself and others unless he can keep himself from falling asleep.
Why it is one of Mike Flanagan’s best: Another moving family drama and supernatural commentary on grief from writer and director Mike Flanagan is Before I Wake, which I would also consider to be one of the best Netflix original horror movies to ever be made available on the platform, even though it was initially meant for a theatrical release before Relativity Media went bankrupt.
A sadistic masked murderer (10 Cloverfield Lane star John Gallagher Jr.) breaks into the secluded home of a successful author (Kate Siegel, Mike Flanagan’s frequent collaborator and real-life spouse), but decides to prolong his plan into a deadly cat and mouse game for his own amusement when he learns that she is deaf.
Why it is one of Mike Flanagan’s best: What could have easily been another humdrum home invasion thriller, Hush is instead another example of what Michael Flanagan does best: take a familiar concept to the horror genre and enhance it with clever imagination, grounded and believable characters, and an unwavering aura of suspense. Also, keep an eye out for an Easter Egg related to Flanagan’s upcoming Midnight Mass series.
Gerald’s Game (2017)
Years after she suffered a traumatic childhood event, a woman (Carla Gugino) takes a weekend getaway with her husband (Bruce Greenwood) hoping it will help spice up their marriage, only to see it evolve into a horrifying fight for survival when the plan takes an unexpected turn.
Why it is one of Mike Flanagan’s best: As a taut, subversive, and unapologetically grim tale of redemption and self-discovery, I honestly believe that Gerald’s Game is the crown jewel of Mike Flanagan’s Netflix exclusive thrillers (specifically of the feature-length titles and not counting The Haunting of Hill House, that is) and the second best of his extremely impressive adaptations of Stephen King novels so far. Also, you will find an Easter Egg related to Flanagan’s upcoming Midnight Mass series in this one, too.
Doctor Sleep (2019)
Years after he suffered a traumatic event in his childhood when his family acted as the caretakers for a haunted Colorado hotel, a man (Star Wars movies actor Ewan McGregor) finally learns to let go of his demons and realize the benefit of his extraordinary telepathic gift, until he is forced to confront his past when he meets a girl (Kyleigh Curran) whose similar (and far more powerful) abilities put her in grave danger.
Why it is one of Mike Flanagan’s best: The best of Mike Flanagan’s Stephen King movies so far, I would say, is Doctor Sleep - which the screenwriter and director crafts into both a faithful adaptation of the original novel and a (dare I say, arguably better) sequel to one of the best horror movies of all time, The Shining - Stanley Kubrick’s terrifying classic from 1980.
I am the kind of person who prefers to keep expectations at bay while anticipating any upcoming movies or TV shows. However, as a huge fan of horror movies and horror TV shows, and especially as a fan of Mike Flanagan, I cannot help but assume that Midnight Mass could be the filmmaker’s next masterpiece.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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