Film Crew: Mike Flanagan

I’m now looking forward to Ouija 2.

Wait, before you write me off, let me explain my reasoning why.

For fans of horror films, there are a few names that cause excitement. Writers or directors that, when they work within the genre, typically put out good to great work (everybody is allowed to bomb occasionally). Some of them include Hitchcock, George A. Romero, Wes Craven, Raimi, and I’m willing to bat for James Wan (if The Conjuring 2 delivers). A name that might start meaning more could be Mike Flanagan.

Mike Flanagan was born in Salem, Massachusetts and even though he only lived there for a brief amount of time, as his father was a coast guard, it left a large enough impression on him to influence him later on in some of his films.

He later went to school for film in Maryland. While in school, he made student films that leaned towards melodrama. His first major feature length film was Ghosts of Hamilton Past, which you can rent or own over on Amazon. That film is closer to a mystery, but it was in 2006 when he ventured into the horror genre. With a budget of $1500, he made a short film entitled Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man With a Plan. Originally, Oculus was supposed to be a story told across multiple short films, but due to budgetary constraints, he went with the one that was the simplest to make. The one that basically has one actor and one location. It truly showcases what he’s able to do in the horror genre, as it crawls under your skin, and you become terrified of what a mirror is capable of doing.

It’s on YouTube and it’s about the length of a show on television.

The short film was accepted into film festivals where there was intrigue to shoot it as a feature-length flick, but none  of the offers matched Flanagan’s vision or allowed him to helm the project. Instead, with the help of 220px-absentia2011filmKickstarter, he made Absentia (albeit a few years later). It is a film that balances suspense and the supernatural while having great visuals, thanks to the equipment he was able to get with the help of Kickstarter (a reportedly $70,000 budget). Absentia showcases his potential, although it is the Oculus short which does a better job of this. Both projects are clearly influenced by his fascination with Salem.

After the success of Absentia, he returned back to Oculus in 2012, this time with way more control, and a bigger and better budget. It shows. His feature length adaptation takes a lot of what makes the short film work (the mirror, the suspense, the concept) and adds new things (better acting, better camera, oculus-poster-2multiple locations). When the film was finally released in 2014, I saw it opening weekend, and I’ve been a fan of the film and Mike Flanagan since. The film blended the past and the present together seamlessly, and every time I see it, I’m left on the edge of my seat.

Flanagan directed his next film, Before I Wake, in 2013, with stars Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane, and Jacob Tremblay (before Room). The film is described as a supernatural horror in which Cody (Tremblay), the adopted son of Bosworth and Jane’s characters, has his dreams become reality. Unfortunately, he can’t stop having nightmares – and the nightmares are before-i-wake-35677-poster-xlarge-resizeddeadly. I can’t comment on whether the film uses this great idea properly, as it was bought by Relativity Media which has since gone bankrupt, and thus was shelved in North America. It only played for one week internationally at the beginning of April.

In August of 2015, it was announced that Flanagan was going to direct the sequel to Ouija, which wasn’t news I was happy about. While I have not seen the first Ouija, my hopes are not high (I will give it a chance soon). There was also news that he had filmed another movie in secret, a surprise film called Hush. There was a “buyers screening” at TIFF this past September, but nothing for the public until March for SXSW, where the film had it’s world premiere. When reviews came in, everybody raved about how people must see it as soon as possible, but no release date was given. If Flanagan’s past had any way of pinpointing when, I would have expected a wait of at least a year. Hello, My Name is Doris, which won the audience award at SXSW only recently came out in theatres.

So it was a complete shock when it was announced that Netflix bought the film, with exclusive rights to show it nearly a month after release. Hush is a home invasion film in which the victim is deaf and mute. A great premise that is executed so incredibly well.

I love Hush.

There are many horror films that have a great premise but drop the ball. Not Hush; not Mike Flanagan’s films. He’s somebody who we might be able to start depending on for great content, within the horror genre, or out of it.

I wrote all of this for me to try and wrap my head around the strange sentence I’m about to type a second time:

I’m now looking forward to Ouija 2.

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