Horror mastermind Mike Flanagan blew fans’ minds in a big way in 2023 with the release of the blood-soaked and emotionally harrowing The Fall of the House of Usher, which quickly became one of my favorite horror series of all time. Despite adapting a variety of works from Edgar Allan Poe, the limited series wasn’t part of Netflix’s Haunting anthology alongside Hill House and Bly Manor, but it turns out Flanagan did indeed have a specific goal in mind for Season 3 had everything worked out in his favor. And OMG, it could have been the best one yet, because he was aiming to put his signature spin on the works of literary icon Richard Matheson.
That’s right, Mike Flanagan was 100% on board to deliver The Haunting of Hell House, which fans started clamoring for as soon as it was obvious how amazing Hill House was when it was released in 2018. Just one letter’s variance from Shirley Jackson’s haunted abode, but a wildly different approach to the foundational horror subgenre, and with a slew of equally lauded novels and stories to supplement the core nightmares within Belasco House. Flanagan’s reveal came to fans in the most unique and unpredictable way possible: as a foreword for a gorgeous new edition of Matheson’s seminal tale, set to be released by Suntup Editions (via Bloody Disgusting). In his words:
When I adapted Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House as a Netflix series, there was much talk about how to continue the Haunting anthology. We followed Hill House with The Haunting of Bly Manor, based on numerous ghost stories by Henry James. Had there been a third season, I wanted that season to be The Haunting of Hell House. It was actually the first title we explored when Hill House was over, but the rights were spoken for and there did not seem to be a path forward.
As it so often goes, especially in the world of horror, licensing rights prevented what could have potentially been both Mike Flanagan’s best Haunting season as well as the most accomplished adaptation of Richard Matheson’s bibliography yet. All due props where they’re deserved for fan-favorites such as 1973’s The Legend of Hell House, Will Smith’s I Am Legend, Kevin Bacon’s Stir of Echoes and others, but all of that material and then some would have turned to pure gold in the hands of Flanagan & Co. Assuming whoever owns the rights to that book and others would have been willing to coordinate. (A seemingly similar situation occurred when Flanagan's idea for an Elm Street project was thwarted over rights issues, which will never not upset me.)
The Midnight Mass creator continued, drawing attention to the legacy of Matheson’s influential 1971 novel, saying:
I don’t know that there has ever been a haunted house story as downright cinematic as Hell House. It is written by a man who thought visually, who had a flair for cinematic set pieces, audience expectations, and visceral thrills that eluded many of his literary predecessors. That is one of the reasons I Am Legend [also by Richard Matheson] resonates so deeply, and Stephen King is correct when he says: ‘Without his I Am Legend, there would have been no Night of the Living Dead.’ Without Hell House, I’d argue that there would be no Poltergeist, no The Conjuring, no Insidious.
Considering he's has delivered at least two of the most effective haunted house horrors of any platform or format — which doesn't even get into all of Flanagan's excellent movies and TV shows outside the Haunting shows — it stands to artistic reason that he should be able to one day make himself at home within the walls of Emeric Belasco's fright-filled residence. Even if it would now probably have to exist outside of any connections to Hill House and Bly Manor, since Flanagan's overall deal with Netflix expired after Usher. I mean, it could be a C-SPAN Original Series, and I would still be downright possessed by anticipation.
I'm definitely not going to stop hoping for the day when Hell House's rights are freed up, but that's only assuming the Midnight Club creator will be first in line to snatch them up. And that's also assuming the book isn't currently being adapted by someone far less talented.
It's All Connected: Richard Matheson wrote the screenplays for several of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations in the 1960s, such as House of Usher, The Raven, The Pit and the Pendulum and Tales of Terror.
While he may not be bringing Richard Matheson's rich storytelling to the screen anytime soon, Mike Flanagan is deep into his latest Stephen King adaptation, The Life of Chuck, which co-star Mark Hamill has wrapped filming on.