Hill House. Bly Mansion. And a little place called the Overlook Hotel… If anyone knows about the importance of the right setting for a creepy story, it’s Mike Flanagan, whose consistently impressive output of horror in recent years has included projects like The Curse of Hill House, The Curse of Bly Manor, Y doctor sleep.
Flanagan returns with another excellent Netflix limited series horror tale this week, Midnight mass. The series is set on the fictional Crockett Island, whose tiny population of 127 is swelled by the nearly simultaneous arrivals of Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford) and Father Paul (Hamish Linklater). Riley grew up on Crockett Island, but returns after a horrific event, while Father Paul seems to bring literal miracles with him, causing many of the island’s residents to embrace their faith like never before. But as you might suspect, there’s also reason to worry about what’s going on…
Flanagan and his longtime producing partner Trevor Macy (the two run Intrepid Pictures together) spoke to Juice Mobile about the importance Midnight mass‘ is the placement and blending of the cast of familiar faces from Flanagan’s previous projects with actors new to their world. Also, we talk about The Curse of Hill House it now has the distinction of becoming one of the featured mazes at this year’s Halloween Horror Nights.
FIND (OR BUILDING)
THE RIGHT LOCATION
Although you’ll often hear the setting of a movie or TV show described as an additional character on their show, Flanagan firmly believes that’s very true for the kind of stories he does, commenting, “I think the setting is a character in and of itself in the genre for sure. And especially when faced with an allegory like this, Crockett Island had to be something very specific.”
Flanagan recalled, “We went everywhere looking for him” when it came to finding the perfect location to film his story. Macy noted, “We are looking for a [actual] pretty island. And we found a couple that would have been amazing. But the logistics were so complicated… As the one we liked the most, we would have had to put the entire crew on a cruise ship that we rented and park it in the port. So when that became apparent, the alternative became much more attractive.”
Ultimately, Flanagan explained, they decided, “We had to build it. And most of what you’re seeing on the show, pretty much everything is built. All the houses on the water were filmed in Gary Pointe Park in Steveston, here in Vancouver, and then the rest of the city, Town Square and Main Street and all of that, was built in the middle of a farm in Langley, right on a empty field.”
By comparison, Flanagan noted, “Bly Manor was a digital creation. The inside of the house was something we built on stage, but the outside was digital. Hill House was a mix between stage work and the real house we found in Georgia. And we’ve never had to tackle something as big and important as what turned out to be Crockett Island, so full props to our amazing production designer who put all of this together and built all of this.”
THE EVER-GROWING FLANAGAN FAMILY
Flanagan is known to frequently use many of the actors he has previously worked with, including mainstays like his wife, Kate Siegel (oculus, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Shut, The Curse of Hill House, The Curse of Bly Manor), y Henry Thomas (Ouija: Origin of Evil, Gerald’s game, The Curse of Hill House, doctor sleep, The Curse of Bly Manor), who have important roles in Midnight mass along with other Flanagan returnees such as Michael Trucco (Shut), Annabeth Gish (The Curse of Hill House), y Samantha Sloyan (Shut, The Curse of Hill House).
Flanagan explained that when developing new projects, “it’s become quite common now that we’ll be developing characters with actors in mind, especially for ‘family’ actors like Kate, Henry and Sam.” Flangan added to that list someone he first worked with most recently on The Curse of Bly Manor, which is now back to Midnight mass, saying, “I think Rahul Kohli is also absolutely in the family in that way, where he’s like, ‘Okay, if there’s not something immediately obvious to him, we’ll have to find him.'”
But nevertheless, Midnight mass has some of its main characters played by actors Flanagan has never worked with before, including Gilford (Friday night lights) y Linklater (Legion). As Flanagan explained, “There are characters that emerge and it quickly becomes clear that they don’t have an actor already naturally connected; as if the character develops on its own without any preconceived notions of casting. And that was true for both Riley and Father Paul. And that’s really exciting because I love working with the same people again and I love having shorthand and actors that I can trust and be able to stretch and grow with them, but it’s also really fun to discover new talent and new relationships that way. . .”
He added, “In this case, with Hamish and with Zach, it was great, because the legacy cast was actually a little bit involved in that. When Hamish auditioned, his off-camera reader was Kate. It’s really cool to see people coming in and out of the family and finding their place in this growing company.”
Flanagan revealed that from the beginning, he and Macy actually had concerns about reusing the same actors, and Macy recalled that eventually, “we got over that point. You don’t want to look like you’re making movies in your living room with your friends and now that there aren’t actually any living rooms in the pictures, and haven’t been for quite some time, it’s less of a concern. . It’s more about who has done an amazing job for us, and this is particularly true because Mike’s cinematic style is so precise. And it is based on a level of preparation and skill of the actors that is essential. So when people show that level of preparation and skill, it’s wonderful to have them back. Because, in turn, it allows us to get over our weight and keep our schedules and budgets to an acceptable level for Netflix, and it does great things for the entire show. So in addition to making it more fun to work with people you really like, start with that level of skill and work ethic first.”
(Hill House Halloween Horror Nights)
I also had to ask Flanagan and Macy what it was like to see The Curse of Hill House comes to life at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, where the show has been turned into a stunning maze for this year’s event at parks in Hollywood and Orlando.
Flanagan said of visiting the Universal Studios Hollywood incarnation: “Trevor and I walked through the maze before it opened, before the cast and other people were there, and that was amazing. It was like walking through the memories of the production… It was amazing. But then I have to go back and actually go through opening weekend with a group of friends and cast members and that was crazy. It was a total joy to be scared by that… We walked out of it and immediately turned around and went back in.”
As for the experience of seeing the show come to life in this way, Flanagan observed, “What I still can’t figure out is that the show has impacted enough people over the years to make it basically a ride; that made it this piece of pop culture entertainment that has a life of its own. It’s probably the most surreal, humbling and wonderfully charming result of anything we’ve worked on. It was really amazing. I want to come back!”
When I mentioned that I hoped Flanagan and Macy could also make it to Universal Orlando, where The Haunting of Hill House is distinctly different from its Hollywood counterpart, Flanagan responded, “I’d love to go! I’m a fan, more than anything. I am a horror fan who was lucky enough to work in horror. And so, after leaving the Hill House, we went to the labyrinth of the Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw and Bride of Frankenstein. We did all the mazes in the park at the end of the night. And it was a delight to be back among the fandom. I would love to go to Orlando. I would really love to be a nerd about the differences.”
Midnight mass premieres Friday, September 24 on Netflix.