Netflix Has Just the Right Director Adapting The Haunting of Hill House Into a Horror Series

A scene from Mike Flanagan’s Ouija: Origin of Evil. Image: Universal Pictures
A scene from Mike Flanagan’s Ouija: Origin of Evil. Image: Universal Pictures

Mike Flanagan has got to be one of the busiest horror directors working today. On the heels of Hush, Before I Wake, and Ouija: Origin of Evil, he just wrapped Stephen King adaptation Gerald’s Game for Netflix. Now, he’s got another Netflix literary adaptation in the works. And yep, it’s more horror.


This time, though, instead of a feature film, it’ll be a 10-part series described as “a modern reimagining” of Shirley Jackson’s 1959 classic The Haunting of Hill House. The book has already been made into a pair of films, both simply titled The Haunting. Robert Wise’s 1963 version with Julie Harris is still legit scary, while Jan de Bont’s 1999 version with Liam Neeson is campy as hell.

Though the story is familiar, with ten episodes to fill, Flanagan will be able to more deeply explore Jackson’s characters, as well as the troubled history of the mansion they all move into as part of a paranormal investigation. Flanagan’s flair for making even ordinary things intensely spooky—this is a guy who made a sidewalk tunnel into a place of sheer terror in 2011's excellent Absentia—suggests he’s an ideal choice for this project. We can’t wait to see how he updates Jackson’s story (since it’ll presumably be set in the present day, how will technology factor into the ghost hunt?) and to be scared as hell in the process.



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We can’t wait....

I can. Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is one of the greatest ghost stories ever told. Robert Wise’s The Haunting is one of the greatest haunted house movies ever made. It is really, really, really hard to see what a 10-part “modern reimagining” (shudder) could possibly bring to the table.

I’m not writing this just to kvetch about another gratuitous remake (and for the record: there are lots and lots of good remakes, and lots of properties that are crying out to be remade). I’m writing this in part to say to anyone in the forums who hasn’t read the book and/or seen the 1959 movie, rectify one or both problems as soon as you can. The novel is a legit classic by one of America’s great 20th Century writers. The movie is a legit classic by one of America’s great-and-often-overlooked 20th Century directors. The novel begins with one of the best opening passages penned in English--I know this sounds like hyperbole, but trust me, The Haunting of Hill House has one of the great opening paragraphs. The movie shows just how much a talented filmmaker can do simply with lighting and sound design.

Read the book. Watch the movie.

(And skip Jan de Bont’s 1999 movie unless you just have to see some of the worst excesses of ‘90s Hollywood cinema. It’s not just that it’s a terrible remake of a pretty great American film, or an completely unuanced adaptation of a brilliantly subtle American novel; it’s just a bad movie altogether, with CGI that looked like garbage even at the time (and hasn’t aged well); an incoherent plot that only serves as a means of linking setpieces together; and a lot of phoned-in performances by actors who probably thought they were signing onto a prestige picture (the novel and ‘59 movie being acclaimed classics), discovered they were working on crap, and stuck with it for their paychecks.)