One of our original Cinemondo Podcasts talked about a few of Mike Flanagan’s earlier films: his very first, the low-budget Absentia and Gerald’s Game, based on the Stephen King novel. He’s directed a lot since then, and all of them are available to stream. If you are a fan of good filmmaking - then watch them. Yes, they mostly work in the horror genre, but there is so much more going on than that. We’ve championed him in the past, and we’ll continue to do so until he produces a clunker. At that point, we’ll turn on him and rake him over the coals. Until then, bravo! (I don’t think he’ll make a clunker, so I write that with great confidence we won’t ever do that.)
Netflix obviously liked what he did with Gerald’s Game, so when he proposed doing a ten part series based loosely on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel, The Haunting of Hill House, he was given full creative control. And it really shows. The series is much more than an updating of the classic novel; it is a total rehab. Not that the novel needed that, but for today’s audiences, Flanagan brings a modern sensibility to the way a large family interacts. This is the story of the Crain family, mom, dad and five kids. What happened to them in 1992 when they purchased the creepy old Hill House and tried to flip it, and what happens to them in present day. I won’t tell more than that. But it really is part-horror house-things go bump in the night, and part “This is Us". That’s an alluring combination for today’s binge-watching audience, and boy is it easy to crank through this one.
Scary, very sad, touching with easter eggs aplenty, there is a lot to take in. I’m actually going to rewatch the series, because I know I missed a lot. That can be the problem with binge-watching - you just want to get on to the next episode without really savoring the bits. When we had to wait each week to watch Breaking Bad or GOT or whatever, talking about those episodes and mulling them over was half the fun. With ten episodes plopped down in front of you, that is gone. But this series is so good, that you’ll want to savor it. So take it slow - look in the corners of the screen. Stay focused (and frosty, if you’d like), and enjoy it. Mike Flanagan has done it again. I’m hearing Netflix wants a season two, but he’s not going for it. Here’s hoping he finds another project and gives it the same attention to deal, thoughtful direction and great writing (with a superb cast) that he did to this. And please, Mr. Flanagan, keep using the same actors you’ve used many times in the past: Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas, Elizabeth Reaser, Kate Siegel - wow, all of them just first rate.