Midnight Mass Includes A Sequence That Was More Challenging To Shoot Than Hill House Episode 6
Mike Flanagan's new show includes a moment that was harder to pull off than Hill House's iconic "Two Storms" episode.
Back in 2018, The Haunting Of Hill House made massive waves, not just for critics and fans of the horror genre but for anyone interested in the actual craft of filmmaking--and for good reason. The show's sixth episode, "Two Storms" was an incredible feat of engineering, done with virtually no cuts (just five in total across a full hour) that earned its very own behind the scenes featurette just to showcase how they managed to pull it off.
Spoilers: It wasn't easy at all, and including trap doors for actors and specially designed sets to accommodate tracking shots.
Now, Hill House creator Mike Flanagan has a new show on Netflix called Midnight Mass and, while it may not include 20-minute long single take tracking shots, it does include a sequence that according to Flanagan himself, was actually more difficult to pull off.
In the final episode, we arrive at the show's titular moment--the midnight mass--which, avoiding spoilers, is about as horrific and difficult to watch as you might expect in a Flanagan horror story. The sequence takes place within Crockett Island's tiny one-room church, St. Patrick's, after the town's population has been summoned for the special service. Right off the bat, this presented problems according to Flanagan, who spoke with GameSpot during a junket event for the show.
"As a sequence, it was the most challenging scene we've ever shot by a lot. I think back to Episode 6 of Hill House, which was really hard to do, but this was, in its way, harder," Flanagan explained. "And not because we had to nail one perfect shot but because it was 103 individual set ups that were meticulously shot-listed and boarded before we got there, in a confined space with 100 extras, 40 of whom were stunt people, in a world where every single person in the church had to be rapid COVID tested before they can set foot on set every day, in a scene that takes six days to film."
"And it's [a scene] that has more moving parts, and more action, and more characters to track than any other sequence we've ever done. It's a 22-minute scene with hundreds of distinct angles at play," Flanagan continued.
What's more, the entire scene was lit by candles--over 200 of them, Flanagan explained. "We'd light all these candles and hot wax would be dripping on people from the overheads and then we'd have to get to the scariest part of every day: Saying 'alright, we're ready to go, everyone take your masks off.' So you've got 100 people who take their masks off, put it in their pockets, do the scene, and then put it back on and hope they didn't just get COVID. And then you'd get through the shot and realize that, of the 100 people, one of them forgot so now you've got this take with someone in a mask. So that sequence was harrowing on every level."
Executive producer and long-time Flanagan collaborator Trevor Macy also chimed in to explain that their rigorous safety protocols paid off. "Every day I'd be waiting for the test results to come back, like 'oh god I hope nobody got sick,' and nobody did."
And as for those candles? "However much you think our candle budget was," Macy joked, "it's more."
Midnight Mass is available to stream on Netflix now.
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