With his much-anticipated film of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep poised to scare theatrical audiences in November, director Mike Flanagan is returning to Netflix for his third straight adaptation of high-profile horror lit. He’s following up his popular series translation of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House with The Haunting of Bly Manor, based on Henry James’ 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw.
Like Jackson’s tome, Turn of the Screw was the basis for a classic film (1961’s The Innocents), and it has inspired numerous other features, including next January’s The Turning. For Haunting of Bly Manor, however, Flanagan is taking advantage of the lengthier series format to draw from other works in the source author’s canon. “We’re looking at all the ghost stories of Henry James as the jumping-off point for the season, so it very much is a whole new deal,” he says. “It’s a cool way to expand on some of the things I loved about season one, but within the framework of a new story, without having to be restrained by the decisions we made last time. For Henry James fans, it’s going to be pretty wild, and for people who aren’t familiar with his work, it’s going to be unbelievably scary. I already think it’s much scarier than season one, so I’m very excited about it.”
Some of the cast of Flanagan’s Haunting of Hill House will carry over to the new series, including the duo who played Nell and Luke Crain. “We’re hanging the season on Victoria Pedretti [playing the governess Dani] and Oliver Jackson-Cohen, and in addition to them, there are going to be other familiar actors from season one,” Flanagan reveals. “Beyond that, I’ve got quite a few candidates among new faces who I really love, but we haven’t formally cast anybody yet.”
As for the spectral characters who put the haunting in Bly Manor, the director confirms he will “absolutely, 100 percent” follow the Hill House approach of practical effects in Bly Manor. “That’s part of the DNA of The Haunting for me—that old-school approach to the ghosts,” he says. “In particular, we’re having an enormous amount of fun talking about how to take some of the ideas from season one about hidden ghosts and things like that, and find new gears for them this time. It’ll be the same type of story, and we’ll treat the ghosts very much the same way.”
Once he wraps up The Haunting of Bly Manor, Flanagan will jump straight into another Netflix project, this one an original. Midnight Mass (no relation to either the Vertigo comics or the F. Paul Wilson novel of the same title) is about an enigmatic young priest whose arrival in a small town sparks a series of unusual events—both miraculous and frightening. “It’s a limited series [currently set for seven episodes], but it might end up being more than that; I don’t know yet,” Flanagan says. “Midnight Mass is kind of my baby; I’ve been working on that for six years. I started writing it while Oculus was in preproduction, and it’s a very personal, scary little story. For years, I’ve sat on it and waited for the right moment; for a while I was like, ‘No one’s going to make Midnight Mass, no one will let me do it,’ and now they’ll let me do it, so I’m going to go do it while I can!”
And he may do it with Robert Kurtzman, the makeup effects artist who worked his prosthetic magic on Hill House and Flanagan’s Gerald’s Game. “I love Bob; he did Doctor Sleep as well,” Flanagan says. “I don’t know if I’m going to have him on Bly Manor or Midnight Mass—it depends on how the schedule shakes out—but I’ll have him on one of the two, for sure.”
After that, “Depending on how Doctor Sleep does, we’ll see what movie opportunities there will be. I’ve been talking to Stephen King a lot about what we might want to do together after this, so we’ll see how it goes.”