Exclusive: Mike Flanagan on Haunting of Hill House season 2: “The Turn of the Screw is only one of a dozen stories were telling”

Mike Flanagan has quickly become one of the most acclaimed horror directors working today, his adaptations of Gerald’s Game and Doctor Sleep (opens in new tab) winning applause across the internet. Up next, Flanagan will return to Netflix to help steer The Haunting of Hill House season 2 (opens in new tab), officially titled The Haunting of Bly Manor. 

Previously, the streaming service revealed that the story will be based on Henry James’ iconic novel, The Turn of the Screw, whch tells the story of a governess who moves to Bly Manor to take care of a man’s niece and nephew – Miles and Flora – after their parents died. Things turn sour when the governess starts to see ghosts of the previous governess Miss Jessel and her lover Peter Quint around the property.

Speaking to GamesRadar+ and Total Film while promoting The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep, Flanagan reveals that The Haunting of Bly Manor will adapt “dozens” of James stories, and not just The Turn of the Screw.

“The thing I have access to, that no other adaptation of The Turn of to the Screw has, is the rest of Henry James’ ghost stories. I get to use all of them,” he says. “The Turn of the Screw has been adapted so many times. We know how perfectly it fits into a feature film format. We’re doing a whole season of television. The Turn of the Screw is only one of a dozen stories that we’re telling. All Henry James; all thematically linked. 

“I think of Turning of the Screw as the backbone of this season – the through line that carries us from beginning to end. But we get to go off into The Jolly Corner and The Romance of Certain Old Clothes, and so many other of these wonderful ghost stories that people haven’t seen adapted before. It’s all wrapped up in what seems to be familiar, but that familiarity goes away really early in the first episode. It says, ‘We’re off on a whole other road.'”

Flanagan adds that there’s “no upside” to doing a straight adaptation of Turn of the Screw. “It’s been really exciting to have this much bigger canvas, because you’re not going to do better than The Innocents anyway,” he continues, referencing the 1961 movie based on the same novel.

Despite being a separate story to the first season, Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Victoria Pedretti – who played Luke Crain and his younger twin Nell in Hill House – are back, but as different characters. “It will be a totally new story,” Flanagan confirms when asked about bringing them back. “It was important to me that we told that story to its conclusion in the first season. I didn’t want to cynically repeat ourselves, and the actors didn’t want to either. 

“This frees us up because, in theory, in this anthology format, every season can be its own exploration of another classic piece of horror literature. Actors can stay or go depending on their preference and their availability. That opens it up to new cast and new chances for existing actors. I love that format. It would be quite a disappointment to have to revisit the Cranes. It would rob them of the closure they got at the end of that season.”

The Haunting of Hill House season 2 does not yet have a release date. Meanwhile, Flanagan’s latest film, Doctor Sleep, is in UK cinemas and reaches US theatres November 8.

Fancy a spooky watch right now? Then check out the best horror movies on Netflix (opens in new tab).

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