haunting of hill house single shot

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‘Haunting of Hill House’ director explains that incredible single-shot episode

It almost didn't happen.

 

Joseph Knoop

Internet Culture

Published Nov 5, 2018   Updated May 21, 2021, 2:27 am CDT

This post contains spoilers.

If you’re like a lot of Netflix viewers, you’ve fallen under the spell of Haunting of Hill House, the incredibly spooky series that blends gothic horror with hard-hitting family drama. One of the series’ most affecting episodes, “Two Storms,” managed to blend both the past and present incarnations of the cast between the titular Hill House and a funeral for one of the primary characters. It wasn’t just a thematic balancing act, though. The crew behind Haunting of Hill House‘s single-shot episode managed to shoot the entire thing in five separate takes, a feat that’s usually reserved for bigger budget films or 11-minute Daredevil hallway fights.

Haunting director Mike Flanagan took to Twitter to answer fan questions about how they pulled it all off this weekend.

Flanagan’s team obviously had to pitch the idea to Netflix leadership before production could get underway, so they had to include an awkward amount of camera directions in the script to keep things organized.

If you really dug the gothic design of the Hill House, Flanagan mentions that the set design for both the house and the funeral home were specifically designed with episode six in mind. It makes sense, given the very circular nature of Hill House’s main floor and upstairs walkways, plus the long hallway that separates the two halves of the house, and in the case of the funeral home, leads straight to the casket.

Anyone who’s been on the set of a stage play or a film can tell you that things can get out of hand very quickly, and it looks like Haunting of Hill House was no exception. Flanagan mentions that after massive rain effects rigs were installed, to give the episode an even eerier feel, the rigs flooded the sets. Flanagan says the studio proposed cutting the rain effects, but clearly, they managed to stay in for the final cut.

After giving each actor instructions via the pre-recorded rehearsal tapes, rehearsals began in earnest, but the crew decided to film anyway just in case the take ended up being perfect. What ensued was a lot of actors sprinting from spot to spot as the scenes transitioned between past and present.

Flanagan says that the third segment, in which the present-day cast needed to have “thunder emotion,” was by far the most brutal.

The most technically difficult challenge was during the fourth segment, wherein Hugh (Henry Thomas) chases a mysteriously unresponsive Olivia (Carla Gugino) around the house before she seemingly teleports back in the opposite direction. Of all things, the visual trickery involved access portals for Gugino and her various doubles to sprint through.

“Production was murder and almost killed us all,” Flanagan tweeted, “but it was the easiest edit of my life.”

To top things off, Flanagan (who is married to Kate Siegel, the actress behind the adult Theo Crain) said that he and Siegel learned she was pregnant with their second child the night before the filming of the third segment.

“Made me really nervous every time I saw her fall down,” Flanagan tweeted, likely referencing the moment where a drunk Theo attempts to lay down on a funeral home couch but instead winds up painfully smashing onto the floor. “Added a special layer of nerves to the stress of the [episode].”

Haunting of Hill House’s sixth episode wasn’t the only technical marvel the crew pulled off. Throughout the series, the production crew managed to frame certain shots well enough to just barely hide numerous ghosts. Check out our rundown of every ghost we’ve found.

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*First Published: Nov 5, 2018, 10:45 am CST