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Best Mike Flanagan Movies and TV Shows, Ranked – The Mary Sue

At this point, most of us have seen at least one thing Mike Flanagan has been behind, whether it’s one of his several Netflix series or even Doctor Sleep (2019). He’s very on point with adaptations, in a way that some creatives just aren’t. And that may just speak on his talent more than anything else. He’s certainly done quite a bit that’s still talked about in the horror world.
Not everything he’s done has been a hit or even horror, for that matter, but it’s what he’s most known for, and we’re not talking about the worst-of in this list. From what I can recall (believe me, I’ve watched a lot of horror, so sometimes I forget when I’ve seen something), I haven’t watched Absentia (2011) or Before I Wake (2016). Therefore, they aren’t going on this list. Sorry folks. The rest of his best horror films and TV? They’ve earned their spots. How am I ranking these? By how rewatchable they are.
Plot: “The film stars Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood as a married couple who arrive at an isolated house for a holiday. When the husband dies of a sudden heart attack, his wife, left handcuffed to the bed without the key and with little hope of rescue, must find a way to survive, all while battling her inner demons.”
Gerald’s Game isn’t an original idea, as it’s an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel—one Mike Flanagan was able to bring to life. It’s an incredibly unsettling horror movie and nails exactly why psychological horror is sometimes difficult to watch. Unfortunately, where rewatchability is concerned, it’s not so easy to revisit. The subject matter is uneasy, and watching Jessie (Carla Gugino) be stuck in that room is … uncomfortable—not to mention the handcuff scene, and if you’re anything like me, hand trauma or eye trauma is rough.
Plot: “The plot centers on an impoverished island community that experiences supernatural events after the arrival of a mysterious priest.”
Before anyone tells me I’m dead wrong, hear me out. Midnight Mass is absolutely not a show that’s got major rewatch quality. There’s a lot of religious monologues that, quite frankly, get to be a bit much. Of course, the performances are top-notch, and if you’re not bothered by the religious ranting and preachy messages, then it may be easy to rewatch—though, compared to other Flanagan projects, it’s bogged down by a lot of unlikable characters. But the vampire is pretty scary and isn’t what we’ve typically come to know, thus creating an atmosphere that becomes eerie and uncomfortable because of how little is known. And the finale is probably one of the best episodes of the series.
Plot: “A deaf and mute writer who retreated into the woods to live a solitary life must fight for her life in silence when a masked killer appears at her window.”
Being able to watch this for the first time again would be fantastic. There’s so much about Hush (2016) that feels very realistic. And if you’re someone who is deaf/hearing impaired, it’s probably even more unsettling to imagine yourself in that scenario. This serial killer comes out of nowhere and has literally no motivation. He just likes killing people, as far as we know. Considering there’s very few people in this film, you’ve only got Maddie (Kate Siegel) and her cute cat to root for, making for a watch that’s mostly suspenseful the first time around. It’s definitely up there in terms of home invasion slashers but doesn’t hit the same after so many watches.
Plot: “The story tells of a young au pair hired by a man to look after his niece and nephew at the family country house after they fall into his care. Arriving at the Bly estate, she begins to see apparitions that proceed to haunt the premises.”
I’ll admit it: I certainly prefer The Haunting of Hill House over The Haunting of Bly Manor any day, even though Bly Manor has beautifully tragic lesbian love story. Bly Manor moves quite slowly, and the kids aren’t as endearing (hearing “perfectly splendid” so many times is irksome), which doesn’t essentially change throughout the series. However, the mysterious nature of Bly Manor—and the ghosts, etc.—helps in terms of the story. Plus of course Dani (Victoria Pedretti and Jamie (Amelia Eve)’s relationship, as well as the sad outcome for Hannah (T’Nia Miller) and Owen (Rahul Kohli). But otherwise, it’s a slow build horror series that you need to be in the mood for, rather than just turning it on and sinking into it.
Plot: “A woman tries to exonerate her brother, who was convicted of murder, by proving that the crime was committed by a supernatural phenomenon.”
Bleak and genuinely scary are 2 things that can and do describe Oculus (2013). Nothing works out for any of the main characters in this film. We’re forced to watch a sister and brother struggle because of the horrifying events that took place in their childhood home—and also, what that damn mirror took from them physically (as well as mentally). Going back to this film is a treat because you’re left hoping it turns out differently, even when you know it’s not going to.
Plot: “A widow and her family introduce a Ouija board into their phony seance business, thereby inviting a spirit that possesses the youngest daughter.”
Forget about Ouija (2014) because that one is apparently bad. (I didn’t watch it and probably never will.) We should only ever talk about this one. Normally, PG-13 horror doesn’t do much for me, but this movie is so good that I essentially forget about its rating. I’ll be frank and say this is a very rewatchable movie. It’s not your typical possession film. The characters are fully formed, and the family isn’t irritating as hell. And the scares are really effective (Lulu Wilson does a fantastic job as Doris). The ending also isn’t cookie-cutter and happy for the affected family.
Plot: “Set several decades after the events of The ShiningDoctor Sleep stars Ewan McGregor as Danny Torrance, a man with psychic abilities who struggles with childhood trauma. Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, and Carl Lumbly have supporting roles.”
This has been labeled as one of the best Stephen King adaptations. As someone who has never read the book, I can’t fully say so, but at the same time, I can recognize how beautiful, breathtaking, and terrifying this movie is. So much love was poured into this adaptation, and King himself has praised the film. Of course, the length may deter you from rewatching this anytime soon. Not everyone can carve 2 hours and 32 minutes out of their day—though, aside from the runtime, it’s worth doing so and is an experience every time. Personally, I recommend getting ahold of the director’s cut and giving that a watch.
Plot: A group of eight close terminally ill young adults resides in the Brightcliffe Home hospice outside of Seattle run by an enigmatic doctor. They meet at midnight every night to tell each other scary stories. They have a pact that the first one to succumb to their disease is responsible for communicating with the others from beyond the grave.
This latest Mike Flanagan series came out very recently, and it’s great—as great as watching terminally ill folks struggle and hope for better for themselves and everyone else can be. It’s certainly hard to watch if you’ve experienced loss/grief that’s still fresh (believe me), but the performances and horror make it all worth it—with a breakout star being Ruth Codd, who has blown us all away. It’s got that quality that’ll make you want to rewatch it, maybe even to notice things you didn’t before. Plus, horror icon Heather Langenkamp is in this!
Plot: “The plot alternates between two timelines, following five adult siblings whose paranormal experiences at Hill House continue to haunt them in the present day, and flashbacks depicting events leading up to the eventful night in 1992 when the family fled from the mansion.”
We should never not talk about The Haunting of Hill House. The tragedy of grief and loss and growing estranged from loved ones is very real. That’s everyday horror. It’s a show that handles its drama in a way that doesn’t go into soap opera territory. Therefore, it never loses its tension or suspense in the scariest scenes, and the cast does a tremendous job at making you understand that the house is a bad place. Aside from Steven (Michiel Huisman), who is a character I tolerate at best, the performances help make it so rewatchable, as does the reveal of what happened that fateful night.
(featured image: Netflix)
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Vanessa Maki is a writer, visual artist & blk feminist. Her work has appeared in Pink Advocate, The Gay Gaze, & many others. For more, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @theblackbuffy.
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