Shooting one eighteen-page scene without any cuts is rare enough in TV drama, but doing it in an episode comprising fifty-one minutes made up of just five shots is surely, like Hill House itself, not sane.
Sane or no, director Mike Flanagan and his team on The Haunting Of Hill House did it for episode six of their acclaimed horror series. “Two Storms,” in which the Crain family gathers at Shirley’s funeral home, is a technical marvel.
“It feels somewhere between a play and a show and a film,” says Henry Thomas (the young Hugh Crain) in this behind-the-scenes video, and that’s exactly what it felt like to watch:
When Flanagan originally pitched an episode to Netflix that appears to take place in real-time and in a single shot, did he know that it would take a full month of rehearsal? Or that carpet fibres would turn out to be the bane of his life? Or that wrangling a child cast to essentially perform a stage play amid some complicated technical choreography would be the least of their worries? (The child actors not only knew all their own lines cold before filming began, apparently, but also all of the adults’.)
Whatever the difficulties involved, it was worth the hard work. The episode is a real televisual achievement that stands apart in an already strong series.
It’s no wonder then, that fans had plenty of questions about it – questions that Mike Flanagan set out to answer on this Twitter thread.
Over the course of twenty-seven Tweets, Flanagan explains the production process. How actors ran in and out of scene to achieve the adult-to-child transitions from Hugh Crain’s viewpoint – how the sets for Hill House and the funeral home were deliberately built on adjacent stages to make this episode possible. Flanagan explains the “handmade elevator” glimpsed in the video above, created to enable a camera person to drop down a floor from the ceiling, and how ‘ghosts’ appeared and disappeared, and dummies were swapped out of coffins while actors climbed in, all while viewers were busy looking elsewhere. further reading: The Haunting of Hill House Ending Explained
It’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse that’s crying out for a more in-depth director’s commentary. Go on, Netflix, you know you want to.
The Haunting Of Hill House is available now on Netflix. Read all of our news and reviews about the series right here.