Director Leigh Janiak just served audiences a slasher trilogy spanning three different time periods and a hell of a lot of nostalgia with her adaptation of R.L. Stine‘s Fear Steet. Now, Janiak is joining another Netflix series, The Staircase, that tackles a high-profile death under very mysterious circumstances.

Deadline announced that Leigh Janiak is on board to direct two episodes of HBO Max’s upcoming true-crime series, The Staircase. The eight-episode drama series is an adaptation of the 2018 Netflix docuseries by the same name as well as a number of books and reports on the Michael Pearson case.

What’s the Michael Pearson Case?

In 2003, prolific novelist Michael Pearson was convicted of having killed his wife, Kathleen Pearson, two years prior. He claimed that his wife’s death was a result of her falling down the stairs as a result of being highly intoxicated from alcohol and Valium. However, the autopsy report concluded that Kathleen died from multiple injuries including blows to the back of her head from a blunt object.

Christine director Antonio Campos and American Crime Story writer Maggie Cohn will explore the life of Michael Pearson, his family dynamics, as well as the death of Kathleen. Michael Pearson will be played by Colin Firth and dynamic scream queen Toni Collette will play Kathleen Pearson. The Staircase will also star a long list of talented actors including Rosemarie DeWitt (Little Fires Everywhere), Juliette Binoche (Let the Sunshine In), Parker Posey (Lost in Space), Odessa Young (Shirley), Patrick Schwarzenegger (Daniel Isn’t Real), Dane DeHaan (A Cure for Wellness), Olivia DeJonge (The Society), Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones), Michael Stuhlbarg (Shirly), and Tim Guinee (Stargate SG-1).

The Netflix docuseries from writer and director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade primarily focused on the trial and the evidence of Kathleen’s death. There are several twists and turns in this story though and I don’t want to spoil any details of the case. Based on what I do know about Michael’s odd demeanor during the trial, his secret life, and past history, I think this roster of actors will deliver a really impactful adaptation.

Step by Step

Leigh Janiak’s addition to this series is a great step in the right direction. Her work in the Fear Street trilogy proves that she can tackle horror with emotional subtext. While Fear Street: 1978 is an homage to old-school slasher films, the relationship between the main characters is palpable. The moments between sisters Ziggy (Sadie Sink) and Cindy (Emily Rudd) fluctuate throughout the film, but their final interaction is painfully effective and moving.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what she will do with The Staircase and how she can not only bring this case to life but capture the intensity of the individuals involved. I have every confidence that Janiak will do justice to Kathleen’s untimely fate as well as her daughters’ experiences both before and after her death.

Production and release details have not yet been announced.

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