Director Mike Flanagan recently took to Twitter to offer additional insight into the pivotal sixth episode of Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House. The series, loosely based on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel of the same name, debuted during the Halloween season to both favorable critical reviews and strong word-of-mouth recommendations.
The series, which takes place over two timelines, follows a family’s terrifying summer in a haunted house, as well as the traumatic effect it continued to have on them decades later. While the first half of the series lays out the groundwork, introducing each of the five estranged Crain siblings, it’s the sixth episode, “Two Storms,” that finally brings them all together as adults in a funeral home to mourn a personal loss. It’s a critically-lauded episode (which we ranked as the single best episode in the show’s first season), heightened by the fact that most of the episode consists of a few long, unbroken camera shots.
Given the episode’s high praise, the series’ creator, writer, and director Mike Flanagan (Gerald’s Game, Oculus) opened up on his personal Twitter account about how the episode came to be, saying that “episode 6 was part of the very first pitch for the show, promising an episode that would look like one shot.” Through the lengthy thread he describes both the intentions and process behind getting the episode to look the way it did, with production hurdles that included designing both the Hill House and funeral home sets to accommodate the crew, moving the cast in and out of shots as needed, and finding unique methods to hide anything that needed to be kept out of frame.
Even with extensive prep work, Flanagan describes the challenges of actually shooting the scene, from working with multiple units and actor stand-ins to a gradually malfunctioning camera dolly that finally broke down immediately after completing a 17-minute-long take. That said, despite various special effects headaches (and even floods from the on-set thunderstorm’s water), the result was an entire hour-long episode contained in five takes. And, amid the difficult prep and working conditions, Flanagan refers to a significant silver lining in his tweet: “Production was murder and almost killed us all, but it was the easiest edit of my life. Took 10 seconds.”
If the results don’t speak for themselves, the episode’s reception certainly did. It’s a tense hour of drama and dread built around uniformly fine performances and technical know-how that helped the series achieve a 92 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, when it comes to the show’s second season (it has yet to be confirmed, though Flanagan has hinted that the seeds have been planted), this episode is certainly going to be a tough act to follow.
Source: Mike Flanagan