New Netflix horror series was the work of a TU alum

By Rebecca Kirkman on October 17, 2018

Critically acclaimed series "The Haunting of Hill House" premiered on the streaming service Friday, Oct. 12.

Not only have critics described Netflix’s new horror series “The Haunting of Hill House” as “spooky” and “scary as hell”—it’s also “by far the most complex and complete horror series of its time,” according to a review in The Telegraph.

Written and directed by electronic media and film (EMF) alumnus Michael Flanagan ’02, the 10-episode Netflix original series debuted to critical acclaim on Friday, Oct. 12.

In his loose adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel of the same name, Flanagan turns the classic haunted house genre on its head with layers of intricate family relationships.

“I hope audiences will absolutely embrace a truly complex human story that happens to be wrapped in the skin of horror,” said Flanagan in a Netflix-produced featurette about directing the series.

Read more: Film director, writer returns to Towson roots

The recipient of the College of Fine Arts and Communication’s 2016 Deans’ Recognition Award, Flanagan’s recent directing credits include “Gerald’s Game” (2017), “Hush” (2016) and “Ouija: Origin of Evil” (2016).

But he filmed his first feature-length project, “Makebelieve” (2000), while attending TU. 

“I made my first feature as an undergrad with the support of the faculty and students, and without that experience—and many others—I don’t think I ever would have made it,” Flanagan recalls. “When I moved to Los Angeles after graduation (with a handful of other TU alums) I had the skill set to get employed as an editor, which was the only way I survived those first five years in LA.”

An amateur filmmaker and an avid consumer of horror novels and films from a young age, Flanagan says he entered the university with plans to become a high school history teacher. It was an elective film course taught by former EMF chair Barry Moore that inspired him to pursue filmmaking as a career.

“Towson has an enormous impact on me—it taught me how to be a filmmaker,” Flanagan said. “I credit the teachers and other students from my time in the department for giving me the skills and the confidence that eventually became my career.”

For “The Haunting of Hill House” and four other projects, Flanagan partnered with screenwriter and TU alumnus Jeff Howard ’92. “Jeff and I were introduced by a mutual friend, and we’ve often joked that we went to the same college, only eight years apart,” said Flanagan. “We kept in touch over the years and when I moved to LA he reached out to see if there was something we could do together, and that partnership fell together fast. It took us years to sell a script, but it taught me a ton about patience.”

Flanagan’s next film is “Doctor Sleep” starring Ewan McGregor, a sequel to author Stephen King’s “The Shining.” The film will be released in January 2020.

King, himself, offered some praise for Flanagan recently.

Flanagan's reaction to that endorsement: "Some day I’ll figure out how to react things like this without shrieking like a little kid... but today is not that day."

Read more:

From The Towerlight: A Q&A w/ Mike Flanagan