The Horror Stream: Get Mike Flanagan Movies in Your Netflix Queue

Over the last five years, the undisputed master of horror and suspense movies has been Mike Flanagan. From films like Gerald’s Game and Doctor Sleep to series like The Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass, Flanagan has done more to shape the concept of modern horror save except for Jordan Peele. As part of the lead-up to Halloween, UrbanMatter presents The Horror Stream and why the works of Mike Flanagan need to be at the top of your Netflix queue.

Flanagan really gained some attention in 2017 for his film, Gerald’s Game, about a woman who finds herself handcuffed to a bed after her husband suffers a fatal attack and leaves her isolated in a remote cabin. While the film contained solid performances from Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood, it failed to capture a wide audience. Then in 2018, The Haunting of Hill House was released and became an immediate sensation thanks to strong performances from its cast, the spooky setting of Hill House and a firm departure from the use of jump scares that permeate the horror genre. Repeat viewings will help viewers discover new hidden ghosts that Flanagan peppered throughout each episode or new lines of dialogue that help to clarify character motivations. Hill House’s themes of trauma, family, and reconciliation resonated with viewers so much so that Netflix retained Flanagan to create a new Haunting anthology series based on popular books and the second entry would release in 2020 titled The Haunting of Bly Manor which involved several beloved actors from Hill House as they return to play new characters in a new haunted house. Bly Manor actually showed how the characters try to rebuild their lives after their haunting experience by exploring themes of love, loss, and grief. While a third season in the Haunting series has not yet been confirmed, it is likely Flanagan will return to it at some point.

The word “workaholic” is apropos when describing Flanagan as in between the first two seasons of the Haunting series, he wrote and directed Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining starring Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson. The film is genuinely terrifying as the climax takes place at the infamous Overlook Hotel and even features a full orchestral version of the classic musical score from The Shining. While Doctor Sleep was a critical success, it was not a financial one but it should be considered one of the best adaptations of any Stephen King story and a worthy sequel of what is possibly the scariest film ever made.

Fast forward to 2021 and while Mike Flanagan has gotten out of the movie game, he is firmly entrenched at Netflix when he releases his magnum opus, Midnight Mass, a series about an isolated island community that finds itself engulfed in a mystery after the arrival of a strange preacher. After several episodes, Midnight Mass turned out to be a vampire story without actually saying the word “vampire” but it is horrifying to watch. “The angel” as it is mistakenly called, seems to appear out of nowhere at times to scare the residents and even manages to snatch away some of them to their deaths. Flanagan drew on his own experiences with religion and isolation as the small, peaceful community quickly devolves into madness thanks to the perversion of religion but Flanagan is quick to make the distinction between those who find comfort and wisdom in their beliefs as opposed to those who use their beliefs as justification for their horrific actions. While Midnight Mass can feel bloated at times thanks to meandering monologues, it feels like a visual representation of a Stephen King novel complete with the memorable setting, tense horror, and complex characters with their own rich backstories. 

Flanagan has continued his dominance of long-form horror thanks also to his recent series, The Midnight Club about a group of terminally ill children living in a hospice home that meet at midnight to tell stories. While not overtly a horror story, it does feature all of the hallmarks of a Mike Flanagan series; a fantastic-looking house on the outside but ripe with mystery and ghosts galore on the inside, recognizable actors from past series, and insightful, if drawn-out, monologues. The Midnight Club focuses on young men and women as they are forced to confront and fight against their own mortality and how everyone else approaches their demise. The choice to prioritize character development over scares will be jarring for some fans of Flanagan’s work but it is a surprising turn for the writer/director. It is the reason Todd Phillips directed Joker, why Steve Spielberg began focusing on characters rather than spectacle, and why Kathryn Bigelow wrote real-world, ultra-gritty war films; filmmakers evolve and grow and as such, their stories should do the same. With almost two full days of Mike Flanagan-related content to watch around Halloween, his work will continue to hold up the genre for years to come and his series, The Fall of the House of Usher, which is set to adapt several of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic, macabre stories, and release in 2023, Flanagan will look to cement his status as the premier horror story master.

Featured Image Credit: Syfy

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