Mike Flanagan is often looked at as one of the greatest horror creators of the 21st century, but how do his works stack up when looking at them side by side?
Ranking his work was actually really difficult because Mike Flanagan has a fantastic track record of making some of the best movies and series out now. In large part, this seems to be because he not only explores different types of horror but also because he explores different emotional aspects that these horrors can elicit. When ranking these movies and series, while I did look at things like directing, writing, the cast and overall enjoyment, a big factor that I focused on is how likely am I to recommend something to someone. Oftentimes the better placing that something is, the more likely I am to recommend it to someone who has never seen the movie or series before.
Please keep in mind that ranking is extremely subjective and really is just a great way to explore different works. The goal of this ranking is to not just rank Mike Flanagan’s work, but also to hopefully spread awareness to these magnificent movies and series; possibly even spread awareness that these are works that Mike Flanagan was responsible for. Hopefully, after reading this list and seeing that all the works below are truly amazing, this will make everyone decide to check these out, as I have even included the current best location to watch each movie and series.
Number Ten: Before I Wake
Before I Wake is a movie about an adopted orphan, named Cody, whose dreams, both peaceful and horrific, come to life. Despite being ranked in last place, this movie still has a uniqueness to it. Seeing the horrors of the world through a child’s point of view is something that is shockingly not explored enough and if done right, it can be extremely relatable. However, there are some problems as there are some pacing issues, and the characters can be hard to like at times, even in moments when you are clearly supposed to care about them. At the end of the day though, if this is going to be the movie of Mike Flanagan’s that is ranked last, then clearly something is going right as this film is still highly recommended and quite fascinating and unique.
You can watch Before I Wake on Netflix as it is a Netflix original.
Number Nine: Oculus
Oculus features Karen Gillan and is a movie about two kids who had a terrifying experience involving a mirror when they were younger, so in the present they are trying to prove that what they claimed as kids is the truth. The plot of the movie starts off really intriguing as it is told in a non-linear style, however, the movie does begin to wear out a bit as time progresses, though it does lead to a pretty incredible third act. The cast and directing are great in this movie, but that can only go so far, as the script can be a tiny bit lackluster in parts. It’s unfortunate though, because there are some really great moments throughout, with its cast and directing, that do lead to some incredible moments in the third act that are sure to stick with you. The ranking of this movie comes down to where it places with recommendations as I would just likely recommend other works before this one. If you like horror movies or want to see just how terrifying and evil a mirror can be though, I’d still highly recommend checking out this movie.
Right now, Oculus can be streamed on Hulu.
Number Eight: Doctor Sleep
The next chapter after Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Doctor Sleep follows an adult Danny Torrance who has been coming to terms with the abilities he presented in the original film, while also struggling to come to terms with the events that happened to him in said movie. Doctor Sleep is an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel by the same name, which unfortunately actually leads to the problems with this movie. Doctor Sleep sometimes feels like it doesn’t know whether it wants to be a sequel to Kubrick’s The Shining, or King’s The Shining. I certainly do not envy Mike Flanagan’s position with this and it is understandable why it turned out this way. It is also worth noting that Danny is not totally the main character of this movie, which isn’t a bad thing, but just something to note so that you have expectations in check. This is definitely a movie that takes place after The Shining, but I wouldn’t say that it’s a straight-up sequel to it. Something else that I wish to bring up is that despite the movie’s longer run time, I think it actually would’ve benefitted from an even longer one, as moments that should be satisfying, such as the final act, fall a bit flat due to the movie’s broad focus of characters. I feel that the ending would’ve been perfect if we were given just a bit more time exploring Danny. This movie is ranked at number eight though, so there are some major positives such as outstanding performances, great character moments, and amazing visuals; not to mention amazing recreations of the events of The Shining. I just wish that these things would’ve been given even more room to breathe as there truly was something incredible that could’ve been had here.
Doctor Sleep can be checked out on HBO Max.
Number Seven: Ouija: Origin of Evil
A prequel to the film Ouija, Ouija: Origin of Evil follows a family who performs false seances in the 1960s trying to make ends meet after the loss of their father. While trying to bring new elements into the mix, the mother decides to incorporate a Ouija board which, as expected, turns out to be a grave mistake. The original Ouija film was not good, so it was a huge surprise to have this movie be as good as turned out to be. This movie provides moments that are horrifying with an expert amount of anticipation, but it is unfortunate that this movie came out after the original, as it is often assumed to be just as bad, which is absolutely not the case. One gripe with the film that I have is with the villains; I wish that the movie would’ve gone a bit further in their backstory, as there seems to be something there that would’ve been really interesting to say if they were willing to go just a bit farther. Don’t let the name and franchise fool you though, this movie is a lot better than it really has any right to be.
Ouija: Origin of Evil can be checked out on Netflix at the moment.
Number Six: Absentia
Absentia is about a woman whose husband has been missing for seven years, and her recovering addict sister who comes to stay with her. This movie is actually the oldest of the works on this list. Despite not being Mike Flanagan’s first movie, this is his first feature-length film and what a way to come onto the scene and start to make a name for yourself. Absentia features impressive and memorable moments, even though it had an incredibly small budget for a feature-length film. While the budget of the movie can certainly be felt at times, it actually gives Absentia a unique charm. It gives the movie a more grounded and somewhat more realistic feel to it. It is unfortunate though, because when a movie has a lower budget, that movie is more likely to be written off by audiences. The two sisters are at the heart of this movie, offering an interesting look at the way that siblings can need each other in moments of darkness. While being the lowest budget work on this list and probably the least known of Mike Flanagan’s work, this should not deter people from this movie as Absentia deserves major kudos for what it is able to do.
Absentia can be checked out for free, with commercials, on Tubi.
Number Five: Hush
Hush is a home invasion movie about a deaf-mute woman who is an author writing at an isolated house when she is attacked by a stranger. While many events throughout the movie aren’t the most original, these events still feel fresh and thrilling because we are often looking at them through the lens of someone who is both deaf and mute. Not only do these struggles give the movie some much-needed boost in originality, but it is also great to see these struggles being portrayed at all. Though it would have been even better to have an actress who was actually deaf-mute in the lead role, it is thankfully still portrayed respectfully. The movie goes so far as to make it feel that even though these disabilities can be a disadvantage, it doesn’t mean that the people with them can’t be strong. This film was a great step forward with both representation and the name Mike Flanagan, however, next time let’s get some more deaf-mute people into the limelight, even though admittedly, Kate Siegel is an extremely talented actress and does provide us with an amazing horror heroine here.
Hush can be checked out on Netflix.
Number Four: Gerald’s Game
Another Stephen King adaptation, Gerald’s Game is about a wife who is trapped handcuffed to a bed, after she and her husband try to spice up their marriage, only for the husband to have a heart attack. The wife, portrayed by Carla Gugino, is a surprisingly fascinating character whom Gugino portrays masterfully. There have been movies before about one person’s survival while being trapped, but Gerald’s Game manages to keep things fresh, with not only a unique premise, but also by having it be a heroine this time. Not to mention, this is also a horror movie which isn’t always the case with survival movies. The script gives Gugino the space to perform an excellent character study involving the character’s previous trauma that ties into the current one. Gerald’s Game is just as much about the internal struggle and trauma as it is about the external one and while it is a difficult watch, it is also a must watch.
You can watch Gerald’s Game on Netflix as it is a Netflix original.
Number Three: The Haunting of Bly Manor
While this list includes both movies and series made by Mike Flanagan, there have been no series that have been talked about yet. That is because Flanagan very much seems to do some of his best work when working with the longer format of a series. The Haunting of Bly Manor is about an au pair who, after moving to England, is hired to look after two young children at Bly Manor, but unfortunately for her, the estate is haunted. A problem that this series runs into seems to be having The Haunting as the title, and that it is a “spiritual” sequel series of sorts to The Haunting of Hill House, a series that will be talked about soon. Do not come into this series expecting to be antother The Haunting of Hill House, as many others have, which seems to have resulted in some negative feelings towards The Haunting of Bly Manor. The Haunting of Bly Manor is a gothic romance story, with romance being the keyword here. Romance is very much at the heart of this story, but it’s thankfully not overwhelming, and while it may be key here, it’s not the only thing as gothic and horror are still very much a part of the story. The gothic is more the lens through which the story is being told. The Haunting of Bly Manor is a story that is truly heartbreaking and tragic, which is coming from someone who isn’t even a huge fan of stories with an emphasis on romance. All I ask is to have an open mind when coming into this series and if you do, you might be pleasantly surprised just as I was. Side note, it was amazing to see an LGBTQ+ story be such an important part of something in this genre, which hopefully will be something we see more of.
The Haunting of Bly Manor is a Netflix original so you can catch it on Netflix.
Number Two: Midnight Mass
Midnight Mass is about the conflicting ideals of the people of the fictional Crockett Island, where a new priest has arrived who performs “miracles,” causing these conflicting ideals to boil even hotter. While this series may deal greatly with religious ideals, Midnight Mass thankfully never comes across as “preachy.” Instead, Midnight Mass offers interesting and unique viewpoints on religion from all different walks of life and people. Oh, and yes, it is very much still a horror series, featuring absolutely jaw-dropping moments, especially in its final few episodes. Midnight Mass looks at the horror of what the twisting of religion can do, showing both the good and the bad that can be accomplished by those motivated by it. The series shows interpretations of religious texts that I had never considered before and for that alone I will forever remember Midnight Mass. While the beginning of the series is a bit slow, the craziness of the second half more than makes up for it. While these earlier parts may not have been the most exciting things, when you look back at it or even rewatch it, it quickly becomes apparent just how important these earlier scenes were. The series is just so expertly crafted from top to bottom that it’s some of the most intelligent and fascinating work ever created by Flanagan.
You can catch Midnight Mass on Netflix as it is a Netflix original.
Number One: The Haunting of Hill House
At number one comes The Haunting of Hill House, which isn’t just a personal favorite of mine when talking about Flanagan’s work, but also something that I am quite willing to argue is the best single work of horror of all time. The Haunting of Hill House follows the Crane family, with the story switching between the past where the Crane family was haunted in Hill House and the present where the remaining Crane family members are still struggling to come to terms with the events and trauma that Hill House has caused. It is fascinating how the series explores different types of trauma and how it can manifest in many different ways. It is through this real world trauma that the series manages to bring in horror. Not everyone can relate to being haunted by spirits, but everyone can relate to being haunted by their trauma. The Haunting of Hill House is not only masterfully acted by the whole cast, but Mike Flanagan also does a masterful job of crafting a haunting series. I must add that I know people who hate the horror genre, yet loved this series. To be able to get people to sit through the scares and horrors, just because they want to see the characters and the story is something that cannot be undersold with how incredible that is. I cannot recommend The Haunting of Hill House enough and if you’re reading this list and haven’t seen it yet, what’re you waiting for? Everyone needs to experience the series’ journey at least once.
You can watch The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix, as it is a Netflix original.
Again, it bears repeating that all of these works are incredible and everyone should check them all out at least once. Hopefully because I have given you the best place to watch these works on a streaming service, you will give them the chance they deserve.
I would also be remiss to not mention that Mike Flanagan thankfully has a number of things in the works, notably two different series for Netflix: The Midnight Club and The Fall of the House of Usher, which is based on an Edgar Allan Poe story. It’ll be exciting to see how these two series will stack up against the rest of Mike Flanagan’s work, and hopefully we won’t have to wait too much longer.
Do you agree with the list here? How would you rank these works? Which of Mike Flanagan’s works is your favorite?