Why Bly Manor creator Mike Flanagan thinks cellphones are ‘kryptonite’ for horror

Within the ’80s, no cellphone will convey you assist.


For Mike Flanagan, there’s quite a bit to like concerning the ’80s. As somebody who grew up in that decade, he is completely happy to take pleasure in nostalgia. That is partly why the creator of latest Netflix horror anthology The Haunting of Bly Manor set the newest installment of the collection within the period of his childhood.

The most effective a part of the ’80s, he says: “I by no means must take care of the goddamn cellphone.”

Flanagan hates cellphones. Not as a result of he thinks they’re rotting folks’s brains, however as a result of anybody who writes horror set within the current day is obligated to discover a approach to dispense with the machine. A tool that would simply summon salvation from no matter supernatural baddie is at hand. 

“You are at all times about 5 minutes from the police,” he says, standing on the Vancouver set of Bly Manor’s grand, wood-paneled entry in January. “You’ll be able to go on the web and discover, ‘oh hey, six folks died right here.'”

The Haunting of Bly Manor is an adaptation of Henry James’ gothic ghost tales, together with Flip of the Screw. On this model, a younger girl turns into an au pair for siblings who misplaced their mother and father and occur to reside in a haunted home. 

Prior to now decade and a half or so, writing cellphones out of horror scripts hasn’t been Flanagan’s downside alone. 

James Kendrick, professor and undergraduate program director of movie and digital media at Baylor College, and an knowledgeable on the horror style, says cellphones have turn into fairly inescapable. 

“Cell telephones have turn into an extension of our our bodies, so their absence is felt and observed as a lot as a personality lacking a limb,” he says. “Writers haven’t any alternative however to take care of them someway.”


Mike Flanagan would reasonably not take care of cell telephones in horror.

Getty Pictures

By now, it is virtually a trope: The protagonist’s battery dies, or they occur to be in a spot the place there isn’t any sign. YouTube has montages of characters in horror films realizing their telephones are ineffective. In 2017’s Get Out, Daniel Kaluuya’s character was mystified when he saved discovering his cellphone unplugged from its charger. 

The query then turns into, how artistic can writers get?

On the entire, Kendrick says, “it is virtually like one thing they only must get out of the best way.”

To make sure, writers have needed to take care of telephones earlier than, although landlines by no means posed the identical narrative dilemma cellphones do, Kendrick additionally says. You would possibly see a mysterious hand reducing the road to a home or pulling the road out of the wall. In 1978’s Halloween, Michael Myers strangles one character with a phone twine whereas she’s making an attempt to name for assist. And In 1979’s The Amityville Horror, when Margot Kidder’s character tries to cellphone the priest, static takes over the line. In circumstances like these, the severing of communication might be tense and isolating. 

Cell telephones have additionally labored their approach into the style as a supply of horror, like in 2008’s One Missed Name, the place characters get voicemails dated with the time of their future deaths, or 2016’s Cell, the place a pulse by way of mobile networks turns folks into vicious hordes. 

That is high-quality, however Flanagan is not messing round with tech this time round. When a personality sees one thing they cannot clarify at Bly Manor, there isn’t any cellphone to whip out, no approach to doc the fear. For this batch of hauntings, at the very least, Flanagan did not have to fret about characters shattering their screens or dropping their telephones in handy our bodies of water. And he was glad for it. 

“Cellphones are kryptonite for the style,” he says. “They’re the worst, worst factor.”

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Erin Carson