Mike Flanagan has written, produced, and directed many horror projects throughout his career, and several of those have landed on Netflix. Many of Flanagan's movies and television series are adaptions of horror novels or short stories, though Flanagan has also created his own horrifying universes. Flanagan currently has three horror series on the streaming platform, and he will soon add his adaptations of Christopher Pike's The Midnight Club and Edgar Allan Poe's short story, The Fall of the House of Usher.
Flanagan's reign of terror on Netflix began in 2018 with the premiere of The Haunting of Hill House, which was adapted from the 1959 Shirley Jackson novel of the same title. Two years later, Flanagan would add the Henry James-inspired series, The Haunting of Bly Manor to his growing list of horror adaptations. In 2021, Flanagan released Midnight Mass, an original supernatural series, which he referenced in his previous films, Hush and Gerald's Game. Soon, Flanagan will have five horror series streaming on Netflix. Will the new arrivals have to outdo The Haunting of Hill House, Bly Manor, or Midnight Mass to be considered Flanagan's best horror series?
There are many actors and actresses that frequently appear in Flanagan's work and have in some ways, become synonymous with it. Among them is Flanagan's wife, Kate Siegel, who has appeared in many of his projects, including Hill House, Bly Manor, and Midnight Mass. Others that have had a hand in Flanagan's current Netflix horror series lineup are Henry Thomas and Carla Gugino, James Flanagan, Producer Trevor Macy, and the musical duo known as The Newton Brothers. Those that have appeared in at least two of the Netflix series include Alex Essoe, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Rahul Kohli, Robert Longstreet, Catherine Parker, Victoria Pedretti, and Samantha Sloyan.
From the recurring collaborators seen throughout Flanagan's projects, to the unsettling emotion he projects onto the screen, there are many similarities that unite his work. Despite its commonalities, all of Flanagan's projects have an entirely different atmosphere. Both Hill House and Bly Manor evoke suspense by using a haunted property and those that fall victim to vengeful ghosts, but they each have a larger story at play. Midnight Mass has a noticeably different aura. Its suspense isn't rooted in ghosts, but rather an unsettling and dangerous idea that is eventually joined by a tangible creature.
Each series has qualities that could make it Flanagan's best, but Hill House is the one that all the others are trying to live up to. No matter the time that passes, all of Flanagan's work will be leveled against the performances and heartbreaking storytelling within Hill House. Aside from being a ghost story, Hill House documents the lives of the Crain family and the trauma that has molded them into who they are in the present. It weaves the stories of the parents Hugh (Timothy Hutton and Henry Thomas) and Olivia Crain (Gugino), along with their five children, who are all suffering to some degree from the summer they spent at Hill House. Even if they fail to see it, every member of the Crain family is traumatized by the grip Hill House and the ominous Red Room has on them.
Hill House is full of mystery and intrigue as the layers of the Crain family past slowly unravel. The tragedy of what happened to their mother, their sister, and the guilt their father has harbored all these years reveal themselves in each character. What they witnessed as children in Hill House and continue to be haunted by as adults are what make Hill House such a gripping tale. In some ways, Hill House doesn't feel like a traditional horror story, and that's what makes it great. It relies on the unknown and a few surprise scares to get the job done. Flanagan also sprinkles in several elements that at first, may only seem like a jarring plot twist, but that are soon revealed as another layer to the complicated stories of these characters. The true haunting nature of Hill House is the story of family and forgiveness, and that baked into a ghost tale, is what makes it so memorable.
Of Flanagan's current lineup, a case could certainly be made for any of the horror series to be his best. Bly Manor uses its setting and ghosts, woven into a powerful sense of loss to drive its narrative. The ambiguously horrifying world of Midnight Mass uses its religious dwellings to unlock the meaning of what it truly means to live and fail. On the other hand, Hill House uses a mix of classic horror elements of suspense and a few strategic jump scares to make the series feel scary in the way horror fans would recognize. However, it weaves that into a heartbreaking and traumatic family story that is guaranteed to stick with viewers longer than any scare.
There is a fragility in Flanagan's horror stories that make them stand out amongst nearly every other modern horror creation. His attention to detail and presentation of human instinct and vulnerability within his writing is a feat that doesn't get a ton of attention. This sits at the core of each horror series, and what credits each one to being such a phenomenal creation before the cast even picks up the script. While Hill House is Flanagan's best example of this so far, Bly Manor, Midnight Mass, and his upcoming works will be further testaments to the undeniable skill Flanagan has within the horror genre.
The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting Of Bly Manor, and Midnight Mass are now streaming on Netflix.
MORE: Bates Motel Is The Perfect TV Adaptation Of A Movie