Top 5 Mike Flanagan Projects So Far – An Appreciation Post
In celebration of the upcoming release of Doctor Sleep, the follow up film to The Shining, I wanted to take a retrospective look at the works of Mike Flanagan and throw some appreciation over to this horror director on the rise who is clearly destined to be one of the greats of our generation.
Starting his career with student films and short films he became well versed in horror but also the frequent struggle of film finance and delayed releases. Luckily for us, none of this has slowed him down or deterred him from embracing his horror calling. Flanagan is a creative triple threat who writes, directs and edits pretty much all of his work. He frequently collaborates with his wife Kate Siegel making them a real horror power couple.
So, let’s delve into my five favourite Mike Flanagan projects.
As far as small-scale horror start-ups go, Flanagan knocks it out of the park with his first feature film, Oculus. Staring Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites as the Russell siblings, this creepy film about a supernatural film brings a new fear to the haunted house movie. Oculus began life as a short film called Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man with the Plan, this can sometimes lead to a disastrous or lacklustre feature film. However, Flanagan puts care into his narrative and characters and bring some real supernatural creeps to this reflective film.
Favourite Scene: Obviously pretty much everything involving the mirror is amazing. For favourite scene I’m going to have to go with the bleak, hallucinatory ending scene that is both brutal and beautiful.
There’s been a real trend around horror with a sense being removed recently. We’ve had Bird Box and A Quiet Place to name a few. Flanagan brought us one of the first and, in my opinion, the best of these films with Hush. Starring Kate Siegel, who co-wrote this film with him, as Maddie, a deaf author who is stalked by a sadistic killer whose motives are never truly revealed. The sound design in this film is a stand out and the tension is amped from the get go.
Favourite Scene: Again I’m torn. I really could have gone for that ending with the corkscrew because that is a bad ass boss moment. However, I’m going to go with one of the creepier scenes of the film that involves The Man (not Becky Lynch) sending live photos to Maddie as he stalks the house followed by a mad dash to lock the doors is tense and terrifying.
Before I Wake (2016)
Flanagan creates beautifully designed films, this is evident in his entire body of work. Before I Wake may be one of his most visually stunning to date. Starring Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane as Jessica and Mark Hobson, as a couple who adopt a young boy named Cody (Jacob Tremblay) after the tragic loss of their own child. The couple soon discovers that Cody has the ability to manifest his dreams, be they pleasant or otherwise. It may not be his best story but it is definitely designed so well that it makes up for any lack of cohesion. The use of a child’s dreams, and nightmares, to dictate the monsters and designs within the film is beautiful and so well crafted.
Favourite Scene: There are so many beautiful scenes to choose from, and I’m going to cheat slightly. My favourite dream scene is the Christmas butterflies, its spectacular to watch whilst being doused in melancholy. My favourite nightmare scene involves an empty eyed version of Jessica which is very Coralline in its imagery.
Similar to the Annabelle films in The Conjuring Universe, Ouija: Origin of Evil is a perfect example of a sequel surpassing the original film. The similarities don’t stop there though, both ‘sequels’ are technically prequels, and both star the incredible, yet terrifying, Lulu Wilson. Set in the 60’s widowed mother of two Alice is a spiritual medium who, on the suggestion of her eldest daughter, makes the fatal error of including an Ouija board in her act. Flanagan creates a perfect apology for the lacklustre original with some beautifully creepy moments and a real nostalgic aesthetic that seems to be right in his wheelhouse. Possessed children are pretty much a guaranteed creepfest but it’s the story and world around the demonic child that makes this an effective supernatural horror film.
Favourite Scene: There are so many creepy moments in this that truly highlight Lulu as a talent in the horror world. I think my favourite is a subtle but well performed one. When some bullies aim a slingshot at the back of Doris’ head the last thing they expect is to be urged to turn the projectile on themselves.
Give me a second while I catch my breath as I think I may still be reeling from this TV show. There have been a few adaptations of Shirley Jackson’s novel but none as affecting and haunting as this TV series adaptation. Fluidly moving between 1992 and 2018, The Haunting of Hill House tells the story of the Crain family who after experiencing tragic loss must revisit the house of their childhoods to understand how each of them were affected by the Hill House. Another example of beautiful set design, enchantingly dark visuals and terrifying aesthetics from Flanagan, this one really has put him on the map.
Favourite Scene: It has to be the argument in the car between Theo and Shirley that is rudely interrupted by Nell. Written, directed and edited in the most perfect way this scene will definitely be studied by all those wondering how to make not just an effective jump scare but a heart stopping moment of pure terror.
Doctor Sleep (2019) finally landed at the end of October and we managed to catch a screening of it last week. Flanagan had a hard task set for him with this one. He had to adapt the novel by King whilst sequelising the film from Kubrick and keeping the fans of both happy. We will be discussing our full opinions on this in an upcoming podcast so keep peeled for that!
Of course On February 21, 2019, Netflix renewed what is now known as ‘The Haunting’ series for a second season. The Haunting series will be an anthology of sorts with each season following a new story, similar in essence to American Horror Story. Titled The Haunting of Bly Manor, season two is based on The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Flanagan took on the gargantuan task of direction every episode of Hill House and it’s unconfirmed as to whether that will be the same for Bly. As long as his creative notes are there I’m okay with him having a break for a few episodes…but only a few. It is set to premiere in 2020 and if it is anything like Hill House I’m going to have to start my mental preparation for it right now!
Did I miss any of your favourite Flanagan projects? Any suggestions of who else deserves some appreciation? Let me know!