News

Mike Flanagan's Stuck-At-Home Binge Guide: Indie Horror Hits and Overlooked Gems

Doctor Sleep writer-director gives an update on his two new Netflix projects, The Haunting of Bly Manor and Midnight Mass, and shines a light on indie horror with recommendations for what to watch while you're hunkering down at home.

by | April 9, 2020 | Comments

DOCTOR SLEEP, director Mike Flanagan, on-set, 2019

(Photo by Jessica Miglio / © Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection)

Mike Flanagan (Doctor Sleep, Gerald’s Game) was looking at a banner year, with the pending release of The Haunting of Bly Manor, the second installment to his hit Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House, and the start of production for his next project with the streamer, Midnight Mass. Then the entertainment industry shut down, with TV and film productions suspended as precautionary measures in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Midnight Mass was two days away from principal photography when we shut down,” Flanagan told Rotten Tomatoes when we checked in with him recently. “I flew my family out of Vancouver just before they closed the border, and I could actually see some of the exterior sets we built from the airplane. A few days before the shutdown, we had a table read of all seven episodes with the full ensemble, and it was amazing. This show is so special to me. It was surreal to just put everything down and walk away from it.”

The series, according to Deadline, follows “an isolated island community that experiences miraculous events — and frightening omens — after the arrival of a charismatic, mysterious young priest.” The series creator has been building up to this show for years now, with it beginning as an Easter egg in movies Hush and Gerald’s Game.

Flanagan may not know when things will pick back up, but he’s confident they will: “Netflix has gone above and beyond when it comes to taking care of the cast and crew on its suspended shows. They’ve been adamant that as soon as it is safe, whenever that is, we will pick up right where we left off and get Midnight Mass back into production right away.”

Bly Manor is a different story altogether.

“We’re in post-production now and on schedule, and have been able to keep post moving by setting up remote editing systems in people’s houses,” Flanagan revealed. “I just can’t say what that schedule represents as far as release before Netflix makes their official announcement, but I can say that there isn’t any talk of changing the plan, at least as of yet.”


Now with some epic downtime on his hands, Flanagan said his viewing habits have been “all over the map.”

“Last night we watched Once,” he said, “and we’ve been bingeing Patriot on Amazon. I’m almost finished with season 1, and the ‘rock, paper, scissors’ scene is absolutely stunning. I’m halfway through War of the Worlds on Epix, and last week I had a positively weird triple-feature of Apocalypse Now, [Andrei] Tarkovsky’s Stalker, and A River Runs Through It.”

While each of those titles — all Fresh or Certified Fresh at 80% and higher on the Tomatometer — is definitely worth a watch, the filmmaker has a few other recommendations for viewers at home. Many may know the man from his horror work in television, but Flanagan’s career began in the indie film world, and that’s where his heart still lies.

“I figured I’d take this opportunity to amplify some independent horror films,” Flanagan said. “My debut feature Absentia was championed by a number of people in the horror community and spread entirely by word of mouth, and it’s entirely because of that support that I have this career.”

While some of these indie horror movies can be found on the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, Flanagan suggests if you can afford to go the extra step and make a purchase, that type of support speaks volumes.

“These are the kind of movies where such purchases make a difference,” he says. “That kind of demonstrable audience helps more films like this get made, and helps these filmmakers have more ammunition to keep making the kinds of films they make. I can speak from personal experience that each and every rental or purchase makes a real and tangible difference.”

Read on for Flanagan’s list of favorite indie horror films, “Each of which,” he adds, “would be well worth your time as we all do our part to mitigate the spread of this real-world horror.”


Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017) 97%

Issa Lopez’s urban fairy tale is smart, scary, and so beautifully crafted. Part exploration of childhood trauma, part crime-fantasy, and all rendered with skill, heart, and talent that cements Lopez as an auteur to watch. There is a palpable magic to this movie, and the classic feeling of seeing children lost in the woods … in this case, the dark forest is an urban jungle, and the monsters that call it home are decidedly human.


A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) 96%

Ana Lily Amirpour is a badass. This vampire tale is impossible to categorize and utterly unique. This is a genre-bending tour-de-force, a hypnotic journey through the desolate streets of a dreamscape. Even accurately describing the film as a “black and white, Persian vampire-Western” doesn’t do it justice. If you haven’t seen it, I’m jealous … you’re in for an unforgettable treat.


Harpoon (2019) 97%

This wickedly funny thriller by Rob Grant puts three characters onto a boat, sets them adrift in the middle of nowhere and then lets their individual natures do the rest. Dark, unpredictable, and downright mischievous in its humor, this punches well above its weight. Come for the excellent performances, stay for the twisty, turning plotting. A real delight across the board.


Lake Mungo (2008) 96%

I have been recommending Joel Anderson’s unforgettable film to people for years and used to actually stockpile copies of it to give away. This wonderful ghost story presents itself as a documentary of a family’s haunting, complete with talking-head interviews, but reveals itself to be something else entirely. There is a tragic secret at the heart of Lake Mungo, and for all the chills (and believe me, there are many), I wasn’t ready for just how impactful the tragedy would be. I’ve been waiting since 2008 for the next Joel Anderson film.


Cargo (2018) 88%

Man does this movie hit me in the heart. Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling have crafted a zombie movie unlike any other I’ve ever seen, with a dynamite hook and an emotional through-line that affected me way more than I was expecting. As a parent, this movie seized me by the heart. The final moments are as beautiful and poignant as I’ve seen, in and out of the genre. I was so impressed, in fact, that I had to get these filmmakers involved with The Haunting of Bly Manor (they direct two episodes).


A Dark Song (2016) 93%

Liam Gavin’s horrific descent through one woman’s hell, toward the possibility of forgiveness, is in a class all its own. What starts as a supernatural revenge fantasy quickly becomes something else entirely: an exploration of the horrors of grief and rage, anchored by Catherine Walker’s devastating performance. Like Cargo, I had barely finished wiping my tears as I tried to track down Liam to offer him some episodes of Bly Manor (he directed two).


The Endless (2017) 92%

I had a hard time choosing which film by Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson to include on this list — every film they’ve ever made belongs here. Resolution and Spring are both miracles of low-budget filmmaking. I went with The Endless because of the additional joy I get watching Aaron and Justin act in the film. This time-bending, mind-bending classic is the tale of two brothers who stumble into strangeness when revisiting the UFO death cult they’d escaped as children. I love this movie and all of their work.


They Look Like People (2015) 92%

Perhaps one of the greatest miracles of DIY filmmaking I’ve ever seen, Perry Blackshear’s debut feature was made with virtually nothing (no crew, no cash, no crafty), just some friends who poured their hearts, souls, blood, and tears into telling a great story. Blackshear doesn’t just do a lot with a little here — he conjures things out of thin f–king air. This creepy, subtle, tragic, and ultimately uplifting tale of insanity and friendship is one of my all-time favorites and an inspiration to anyone who wants to make a movie. You can if you have the heart! This film proves that’s all you really need.


Possum (2018) 90%

Matthew Holness’ viciously bleak tone poem is one of the most unsettling horror films I’ve ever seen. The atmosphere of dread he creates is so thick it actually seeps into you as you view it, and you feel … well, you feel stained by the time you reach its conclusion. Featuring a tour-de-force performance by Sean Harris and some of the most nightmare-inducing imagery I’ve ever seen in an indie horror film — Holness is a force to be reckoned with.


Creep (2014) 89%

Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass are magicians to me. In addition to sharing writing duties, Brice directs, and both give amazing performances in one of the most wicked, fun, unsettling found-footage films I’ve ever seen. Watching this movie is like feeling a beartrap slowly close around your neck, and being unable — or unwilling — to free yourself before the final blow. And if you think the name “Peachfuzz” isn’t necessarily terrifying, well … think again. Followed by a sequel that is — no lie — just as good.


The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014) 91%

Adam Robitel’s found-footage shocker functions just as well as an exploration of dementia and its effects on a family as it does a terrifying story of possession. Performances are stellar across the board, but it is the fearless turn by Jill Larson as the titular victim of demonic activity that lingers with you after the credits have rolled … well, that and the shot. If you’ve seen it, you know the one.


The Invitation (2015) 89%

Karyn Kusama’s quiet, deeply unsettling urban nightmare tells the story of a simple dinner party that begins to feel — wrong. To what extent it is wrong, how deep that abyss opens, is one of the most stunning and impactful elements of this terrific movie. The last harrowing moments are something to behold, but it’s the final moment of the film — as quiet and simple as any I’ve seen — that carries with it an implication of true horror. The shot itself is innocuous; it’s what it means that will haunt you.


Freaks (2018) 88%

This movie came completely out of nowhere for me and knocked me down. Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein have crafted a dark sci-fi film that gives Marvel a run for its money. I mean that literally; this film probably had less in its entire budget than a typical Marvel movie spends on snacks. This is a thrilling, dark, scary, and entirely human twist on — well, I’ll let you discover that for yourself. This is a gem, and you won’t be sorry you gave it your time.


The Blackcoat's Daughter (2015) 74%

Oz Perkins’ chilling and meditative puzzler is one of my favorites. Great performances across the board, what appears at first to be a story about girls encountering a supernatural force when left behind at their boarding school is revealed to be something even deeper by the end. I love this movie for a lot of reasons, but particularly because of how it touches on an unexplored facet of possession stories.


Tag Cloud

target The Arrangement comic book movie Martial Arts mission: impossible American Society of Cinematographers Opinion Paramount Plus 71st Emmy Awards Quiz TV Apple TV Plus directors indie festival deadpool 2017 cults talk show Box Office SundanceTV LGBT Shudder The Purge Apple TV+ The Walking Dead Anna Paquin sag awards mockumentary Photos FXX golden globe awards Columbia Pictures Star Trek Walt Disney Pictures Polls and Games robots zombies Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Creative Arts Emmys based on movie Set visit FX on Hulu TCA 2017 richard e. Grant parents Action Shondaland ghosts Rock 20th Century Fox Interview royal family book technology Comedy Central facebook monster movies series nbcuniversal Turner Classic Movies spider-man See It Skip It scene in color YA live action Drama biography IFC Rocky historical drama reboot Kids & Family ABC Signature BET Awards Film Festival social media psychological thriller dogs Travel Channel LGBTQ GIFs Disney Channel 73rd Emmy Awards WarnerMedia Summer a nightmare on elm street green book Binge Guide political drama sequel Marvel Studios Podcast Sundance TV Ghostbusters Awards franchise Trophy Talk action-comedy films television TV movies San Diego Comic-Con Comedy women natural history rt labs critics edition stand-up comedy Universal President Reality Competition australia Superheroe hispanic heritage month canceled Acorn TV Year in Review Mary Tyler Moore History ABC Family news Hear Us Out crime thriller spinoff joker disaster finale Extras YouTube Peacock TCA Winter 2020 Family Vudu dc Certified Fresh rt labs SDCC Superheroes movies Pirates rotten DC streaming service Epix cartoon all-time Ovation PlayStation international OWN Mary poppins Biopics romance TIFF Premiere Dates spanish language godzilla MCU mcc Teen heist movie kids Starz dramedy Discovery Channel Sci-Fi Nickelodeon adaptation Apple dceu Spring TV VH1 Turner First Reviews El Rey versus cinemax TruTV teaser Mystery true crime posters critics breaking bad Academy Awards miniseries Alien Tarantino cooking VOD slashers critic resources elevated horror Toys sports rom-coms legend USA Network reviews 2021 Rom-Com E! latino new york screen actors guild GoT werewolf cancelled TV series boxoffice Election free movies dark Lionsgate best Emmys Netflix satire video on demand halloween period drama Trailer saw 93rd Oscars Bravo vampires Fantasy Adult Swim Showtime CW Seed Tubi unscripted olympics 2015 Star Wars Hulu cars young adult Nat Geo CMT twilight psycho GLAAD 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Awards Tour Animation foreign aliens Brie Larson know your critic stoner Freeform TV One Emmy Nominations canceled TV shows Amazon Studios lord of the rings TNT new zealand football Food Network hidden camera 72 Emmy Awards transformers superman space Elton John Amazon Prime Video DGA comics james bond Syfy Exclusive Video Character Guide feel good basketball witnail The Walt Disney Company name the review Amazon Prime doctor who suspense hollywood hist Lifetime Christmas movies rt archives The Academy Stephen King Pixar DC Comics Mudbound french children's TV Video Games comedies supernatural Winners Mary Poppins Returns WGN E3 CBS All Access christmas movies NBA OneApp X-Men ViacomCBS Valentine's Day dragons Ellie Kemper Disney+ Disney Plus Disney scorecard criterion renewed TV shows Disney streaming service Esquire Reality CNN docudrama blaxploitation Pride Month Mindy Kaling NBC toronto Writers Guild of America Amazon debate adenture TV renewals diversity DC Universe Paramount Holidays SXSW RT History TV Land Legendary Chernobyl 90s game show A&E 2020 Trivia Watching Series Grammys blockbuster TCA asian-american Rocketman harry potter quibi Music Fox Searchlight serial killer fast and furious casting Women's History Month festivals singing competition 21st Century Fox Logo Country revenge romantic comedy YouTube Premium Pet Sematary Christmas popular MSNBC biopic batman Best and Worst Fox News VICE FX science fiction worst movies scary movies Winter TV YouTube Red razzies italian RT21 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt sequels Schedule New York Comic Con prank Pacific Islander Baby Yoda BBC One Marvel strong female leads Broadway docuseries universal monsters The Witch kaiju golden globes Pop TV king arthur Spectrum Originals ABC new star wars movies crime National Geographic anthology Infographic slasher A24 Television Academy Wes Anderson tv talk sitcom japanese composers Classic Film Pop Song of Ice and Fire Spike 4/20 nfl Tomatazos obituary what to watch laika documentaries BAFTA 99% Black Mirror Holiday Disney Plus Tokyo Olympics 45 gangster Lucasfilm nature boxing Dark Horse Comics Film war Arrowverse Lifetime dexter Horror 2016 1990s anime Funimation TCA Awards Comic-Con@Home 2021 jamie lee curtis TLC emmy awards adventure Calendar Captain marvel travel APB NYCC ratings superhero Red Carpet crime drama chucky trailers Sneak Peek ESPN marvel comics comic books theme song The CW archives zero dark thirty mutant award winner medical drama spain Image Comics Sundance Now classics Masterpiece stop motion Marathons Western Cosplay 007 HBO PaleyFest BBC America spanish book adaptation Musical Marvel Television independent MTV high school child's play indiana jones comic book movies jurassic park aapi Hallmark movie Paramount Network HBO Go pirates of the caribbean PBS hispanic Musicals rotten movies we love wonder woman Sony Pictures Crackle 2019 cancelled TV shows Television Critics Association CBS BET IFC Films Heroines 24 frames Super Bowl screenings First Look cancelled television kong comiccon remakes japan zombie Hallmark Christmas movies Avengers comic marvel cinematic universe discovery Comic Book cancelled spy thriller Endgame black worst telelvision toy story Black History Month streaming movies blockbusters AMC animated Tumblr Countdown die hard ITV halloween tv TCM Cartoon Network justice league venice thriller documentary video Nominations Cannes TBS Oscars Netflix Christmas movies ID binge Sundance crossover Comics on TV Britbox Fall TV streaming concert politics Crunchyroll cats fresh Warner Bros. cops king kong BBC 2018 south america USA HBO Max police drama game of thrones FOX Thanksgiving DirecTV