While there are numerous filmmakers (writer/directors) who have brought amazing works to the horror genre of film, the past several years has seen incredible contributions from Mike Flanagan, who is gaining attention not just from the horror community of fans, but from some of horror’s most famed creators.
Flanagan got his start with the short film “Oculus: Chapter 3”, filmed on $1,500.00 in 2006. This 32-minute film won multiple Best Horror Short Film awards when released and helped Flanagan move on to what has become an incredible career.
In 2011, Flanagan filmed Absentia, about a woman and her sister who link a series of disappearances to a mysterious tunnel — including the disappearance of her husband. Absentia is a true dark, modern Gothic tale of horror. It was the film that got Flanagan into his career as a film maker. He was working as a reality TV show editor and found out his wife was pregnant. According to Flanagan in an interview with Cinfix, he knew if he didn’t do something quickly, he would lose the window of opportunity at his dream career. He crowdfunded the movie and shot it in his apartment with a crew of about eight people. He credits this experience with his learning the importance of painting a picture in the imagination of a viewer, which has allowed him to become one of the most renowned horror directors of the day.
In 2013, he filmed Oculus, the full-length feature of his film short Oculus: Chapter 3. This is what he considers his first “real” film and where he formed relationships with many of the people he continues to use in his films today, from crew members to actors. The film is considered one of the best psychological horror films out there. Haunted by the violent demise of their parents 10 years earlier, Kaylie (Karen Gillan) tries to exonerate her brother (Brenton Thwaites), proving that the crime was committed by a supernatural phenomenon — their antique mirror, known as the Lasser Glass. Although the reflections from the mirror seem harmless, it contains a malevolent and supernatural force that infects the mind of anyone who gazes into it.
Flanagan went on to film three films in 2016. Hush, Before I Wake, and Ouija: Origin of Evil were all very good films, though Before I Wake almost ended his career with the glitch of one of the production companies going bankrupt and holding the film’s distribution up. It was along that time that Stephen King saw the movie Hush and became a Flanagan fan. That won him the job of screenwriting and directing Gerald’s Game (2017).
In 2018, Flanagan created The Haunting of Hill House as a Netflix original series. It was this series that landed hm in the spotlight of mainstream horror fans, as Hill House became a huge success and widely viewed movie. A fan of the 1959 book by Shirley Jackson. It was Flanagan’s first experience with filming for television and it was a masterpiece.
Flanagan followed that with his work as screenwriter and director for Doctor Sleep (2019), based on the 2013 Novel by Stephen King as the sequel to The Shining. According to Flanagan, Doctor Sleep was the biggest thing he had done in his career.
In 2020, Flanagan did the follow up to Haunting of Hill House with The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix. After an au pair’s tragic death, Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti), an American nanny is hired to care for his orphaned niece and nephew who resides at Bly Manor. But after the young governess arrives, she begins to see apparitions that haunt the people living in the estate.
Midnight Mass was his last completed project for Netflix, about a young man who returns home to his hometown on an isolated island in hopes of rebuilding his life after serving four years in prison for a drunk-driving incident. When a charismatic priest arrives, the community begins to experience miraculous and mysterious events, and frightening omens — renewing religion throughout the dying town. This was an original write by Flanagan, and he attributes much of the theme to his own childhood struggles with religion growing up. Very eerily Salem’s Lot feel to it.
Currently, Flanagan is awaiting the release of Midnight Club, another installment on Netflix. The Midnight Club is an adaptation of the book of the same name by American author Christopher Pike. It follows a group of seven terminally ill young adults that reside in a hospital – run by an enigmatic and mysterious doctor – who make a pact that says that, when one of them dies, they will try to contact the group from the after death. But, when one of them dies, weird things start to happen. The expected release date in October of 2022.
Flanagan is filming another series, The Fall of the House of Usher, from Edgar Allan Poe, for Netflix. The short story plot is already scary, following an anonymous narrator who tries to help his friend, the ill Rodrick Usher – one of the two last members of the Usher family – and visits his house. Arriving there, he discovers that Rodrick’s sister, Madeline – the other last member of the Usher family – is also ill and cataleptic, making her look like a dead person. But, sometime after, Madeline dies – or it is what the narrator and Rodrick think happened – and the real horrors begin. Filming is set to wrap up by August of 2022 and while it was originally speculated to be released in 2022, it is more likely to be early 2023 before we see this series.
Along the way of this career, Flanagan has proven to be one of the more brilliant minds with fresh ideas for the horror genre. Fascinated with the psychological element of horror, he has mixed it with tropes that have proven to produce masterpieces of work. Along the way, he has garnered the blessings and compliments of Stephen King and is beginning to be recognized as the new “king of horror.”