The Paw Print

The Paw Print

The Paw Print

The Art Of Cinematography: Mike Flanagan


Movies and TV have been the center of entertainment for decades. Before Covid, one of the most popular hang out spots was the movie theaters, now we just chill in our basements and binge watch Netflix. No matter how you choose to watch it, cinema will always remain a steady source of entertainment for everyone. While I love sitcoms and Disney as much as the next guy, there is something to be said about the full fledged stories and scenery we miss from those everyday classics. Therefore, I want to dedicate one article a month to a particular director, actor, movie, show, etc.  that I think goes above and beyond in its presentation. This month’s article will cover Mike Flannagan, who I consider to be one of the most underrated directors of modern day.

Flanagan has directed numerous horror shows and movies, with his most popular ones being The Haunting of Hill House (2018), Doctor Sleep (2019), Midnight Mass (2021), Hush (2016), and The Fall of the House of Usher (2023). He is most known for rotating the actors he works with throughout his projects, meaning your favorite actor in one show may just be playing the villain in the next. One thing I admire most about him is his consistency; Flanagan has been able to drop multiple beautifully detailed and deep mini series over the span of only a few years. All of them have been an absolute joy to watch and I’ve never felt as though he was trying to do too much.

Now let’s dive into what this article is about; cinematography. For this section I will be pulling two mini series that I think are a great example of his abilities; Haunting of Hill House and Fall Of The House Of Usher. Both of which have compelling stories, deep plot, fantastic jumpscares, beautiful color schemes, charming acting, and detailed set design.

Haunting of Hill House follows a family of seven, who move into a secluded manor in hopes to repair and resell it. The manor turns out to be haunted by numerous ghosts who torment each family member separately, one night the father runs out taking his five children with him, while leaving the wife. Years later when the children are adults, they find they must come to terms with what happened in that house, and through the use of flashbacks–we find out there is much more than meets the eye. This show had a heartbreaking story attached to it,  I implore you to go watch it if you haven’t. While this show’s plot was enough to make anyone fall in love, let’s discuss the gorgeous view Flanagan and his team left us. The show’s color scheme is cool toned, and the dim lighting makes for an ambient atmosphere that works wonders for the suspense. Flanagan was able to blend shadows and figures into the background of these scenes making for a subtle scare whenever noticed. I went through all ten episodes the first time without even seeing one “background ghost”, but then when I went back and watched for a second time it was like watching a whole new series.  In Episode Six, the filmmakers were able to pull off a shot that again, when not paying attention may seem small, but once it gets pointed out–there’s a whole new meaning. The episode was filmed as if it was in one shot, seemingly perfect transitions and fluid motions made so the flashbacks from past and present were perceived as all in one location. The contrast between past and present shots are also characterized by color and themed lighting, where the past shots are cool toned and eerie, the present shots are warm toned and homely (as the show progresses this distinction melts away and both past and present become one common tone). Finally, Flanagan’s familiar camera angles are something I noticed very quickly upon watching his media. He has a tendency to reuse jumpscares and camera tricks throughout the series and even across different shows, and while this may seem “cheap” or “not creative” it’s actually genius. Anyone who has watched one of his movies or mini series would be able to recognize when the camera starts to twist and therefore revealing a monster, which creates a sense of suspense; you know, like the “omg I know this jumpscare is going to happen” feeling? He then uses that against you and will sometimes change it up slightly leaving you lost and afraid. All and all this show is a prime example of exceptional cinematography.

Fall of The House of Usher is Flanagans most recent mini series, premiering in October of this year. It follows the Usher family, who run an incredibly wealthy narcotic business. The family gets into legal trouble and during the trials, one by one they start dying in uncommon ways. This show was spectacularly developed and used Edgar Allan Poe’s works as its main source material. Each episode was named after a story by Poe, and each death was themed around his stories as well. What I found to be the most incredible part was the attention to detail with the children’s color schemes; Each kid had their own respective episode, and in that episode the filming location and atmosphere changed to follow the theme. My personal favorite was Napoleon Usher, whose story coincided with Poe’s “Black Cat” short story, and his color scheme being a beautiful deep yellow. Flanagan was able to make each episode feel like it’s own movie, while still connecting them wonderfully back to the ongoing storyline. The actors did a fabulous job displaying such diverse characters and making even the worst of them lovable. Flanagans use of symbolism and foreshadowing gave this show an almost interactive element to it; allowing us to predict the following events while still being surprised. This show, similar to Hill House, also used flashbacks to portray past and present, and while he did not have as much of a distinct color change–instead he used a retro camera film to make the older scenes fit into place. This just goes to show Flanagan’s incredible ability to change up the styles without going too far from his comfort zone.

I am glad to have been able to share with you Mike Flanagan, who I believe thoroughly to be horribly underrated, and a genius in cinema. Him and his crew of talented lighting designers, SFX artists, costume crew, mic crew, cameramen, actors, conductors, and more make every piece of film he puts out stunning. I strongly believe him to be a modern marvel in cinema and I cannot wait to see what he puts out next.


Next Months “Art Of Cinema” article: Die Hard (Christmas movie or not?)

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About the Contributor
Oliver Stoltz
Oliver Stoltz, Staff Writer
Oliver is a Junior at Heritage, this is his first year in Journalism. He transferred from THS and is very excited to start at a new school. When he is not writing he listens to music, watches movies, and works as a barista. Oliver is very excited to write articles for the Paw Print as he connects with the HHS 25' class!