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Part 3: THE FLANANVERSE - Flanagan Means Friendship

By Jason R Lees May 19, 2024 

When I was first getting into horror, even the names of the directors were intimidating. Just hearing names like Romero, Raimi, and Argento put you in a certain headspace. Could you feel safe in a darkened theater, alone, watching something made by a Craven?

 

I’m being dramatic here. Most of those early forays into horror didn’t happen at a theater, but in front of a 19” TV, and I didn’t start learning the names of the directors until I started picking up Fangoria. That was where we learned our Fulcis from our Freidkins. It was in those sacred tomes that we saw how Freddy looked before Kevin Yeagher got to him, how Kane Hodder came to acting from the world of stunts. We pass the magazine around and dream of making our own movies someday. There’d always be one kid, though, who asked the important question of everyone.

 

“Why don’t we make our own movie?” I think the important word in that sentence is WE. Filmmaking isn’t a solo job. It’s far more collaborative than the credit above the title can make it seem, but every once in a while someone slips through that brings it all back to dreaming with your friends.

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My absolute favorite example of that is Mr. Mike Flanagan. I think that it’s “Mike” Flanagan and not “Michael” is very important. A Michael can be intimidating or demanding, but a Mike is a friend who honestly wants to know how your weekend went. A Mike will meet you halfway, maybe even remember your birthday. You’d never be afraid to be alone in a theater with a Mike.

 

You can trust a Mike.

 

And that’s the trick. I absolutely 100% trust Mike Flanagan. I’ll be there on opening night whenever his next movie comes out. I’ll binge his next series and countdown the minutes until new stuff comes out. Why wouldn’t I? He’s one of the neighbor kids. And like those backyard video movies, we all made with ketchup and garden tools (the rustier the better), Mike didn’t make them alone. When you see something from his INTREPID PICTURES, you’re more than likely to see someone whom he met and worked with before. Like a slightly less musical version of Dorothy in THE WIZ, they joined up and went on an adventure moving on down the road. Think of all the people you’ve worked with throughout your life. People come and go and move on. Careers take different paths and obligations steer people in other directions. That’s more true in film than most industries, but here people keep coming back to play in his backyard.

It helps that his yard has the best toys. It’s like when the kid up the street had all the He-Man figures. You wanted your turn. But here, Flanagan is playing with his Stephen King figures with special Kung Fu grip and Overlook Hotel Leggo castle. Calling it the Flanaverse is fun, but it really does ring true.

 

Not in the shared universe sense (not yet), but in that the team making up these stories are all important and equal parts of a company. Imagine if your summer stock or community theatre troupe had the ability to be beamed into every household on the planet. Troupe really is the right word for it. What started out with recurring actors coming back for more really has grown into a family of talent making art. And my calling it that at first feels like I’m getting too close, but it’s something about that casual yet meticulous nature of the films and series that put me off guard, and that’s where Flanagan drops the smile and pulls the knife out.

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I expect to get stabbed from a Cunningham. I’m looking for that dark shape sneaking up on me in the woods. Carpenter, as absolutely beautiful as his films are, never gets me to lower my guard enough to not notice something dripping on me from the ceiling.

 

But Flanagan, my old friend buddy from theater camp, he won’t hurt me. No, he’d never introduce me to the Crain kids and then do THAT to me in the last episode. He’d never let me spend time at Bly Manor only to break my heart over and over. Mike wouldn’t let me experience loss and then love again and then sit me in a boat just off the beaches of Crockett Island.

And we’re not even going to start with what he did to us all up in the cabin in the woods. Mike Flanagan, for all his humble nature, really is the cinematic equivalent of Stephen King. They both get the rep as being ghouls just out to scare you with scary dogs and sudden screams in the night, but they both really want to just get to know you, and in return, let you know them. 

Take away all the jump scares of MIDNIGHT CLUB, and you’ll still be right there with those kids praying they find peace at the end of the day, just like if you take away the ghosts of the Overlook, you’re still going to experience what a family has to do to endure their own demons. Without Pennywise, IT is still a chance to remember what it was like to grow up scared and alone before finding friends, just like losing the spirit boards from OUIJA 2 still leaves you with a mother who has to learn to stop hiding behind the lie that she has all the answers. In a world of ten second videos and “run out in traffic” on-line challenges, Flanagan gives us big, beautiful, REAL experiences with his stories. You don’t kill an evening with one of his works, you absorb it. Horror is easily my favorite genre because of artists like Mike Flanagan, artists who do more and work harder than is expected of him. Maybe that’s why he attracts (and marries) the type of incredible talent he’s surrounded himself with. Or maybe they all just want to play in his backyard, too.

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Jason R Lees is a lifelong horror fan surviving in the vast wasteland of the Midwest. When not writing or making local tv commercials, he’s doing exactly what his wife tells him to do.

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