It’s officially spooky season and Hulu‘s Huluween is in full effect.

For a new movie on the streaming service just in time for the season, Lil Rel Howery portrays a businessman who wakes up in a prison cell located next to an ancient grist mill with no idea as to how he got there in the dystopian science fiction thriller, The Mill. 

“It was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,” director Sean King O’Grady told Shadow & Act of working alongside a talent such as Howery. “I wish that everybody could have the experience of watching what he did on set every day. It was just incredible. I knew that he was going to bring something really special to it, but it was watching it actually happen that blew me away. It was like having a front-row seat to a Broadway play where you’re seeing the most brilliant performance of your life happening every single day. It was a really special experience.”

As Howery’s character is forced to work as a beast of burden to stay alive, the film explores his journey to escape just in time for the birth of his child.

When asked about the intentionality of the movie showcasing how our minds can often work against us as a mental prison of sorts, O’Grady reflects on his vision for visualizing the message that writer Jeffrey David Thomas created within the script.


“I read it in a night,” he recalled when one of The Mill producers, Josh Feldman, first shared the script with him. “It was this absolute fever dream of a story that I think had so much to say about the world that we live in, but it was really fun.”

He continued, “To me, this represents the systems that you feel are holding you back in your life or treating you unfairly, where you’re giving more to it than it’s giving to you and that’s what Joe [Howery’s character] is doing. “He’s realizing that this corporation that he felt he was giving his life to hopefully get something back one day – to get this life that he had always dreamed up for himself and his family. No, they’re going to keep taking from him and in this instance, they’re actually taking everything away from him and he’s coming to that harsh realization.”

What’s more, O’Grady spoke to Howery’s performance while on set, noting that the Chicago native decided against walking through where they’d be filming ahead of production, thus adding another layer of his raw talent and innate skills to the movie.

This is why the director admits that the opening scene was ultimately his favorite moment in the project.

“We didn’t know what it was going to be like once we got into that cell with Joe, or with Rel who became Joe, like genuinely became Joe,” O’Grady expressed. “We spent months prepping and talking, Rel and I, about how we were going to shoot it, what it was going to be like, things that he found attractive about the character… why he wanted to tell this story. And then, when we got there on the ground to shoot the movie, the day of, I said, ‘Hey, I’m gonna show you the set just for safety reasons and to make you feel comfortable.’ And he thought about it for a minute then said, ‘No, I actually want to be blindfolded before I see it.’”

O’Grady notes how Howery was actually blindfolded and taken to the set, which was not revealed to him until the crew yelled action.

“When you see Rel’s performance as Joe in the movie scene that’s set for the first time and like the shock and horror on his face and the confusion, that’s all real,” he continued: “That was a really interesting sort of transition moment where it went from me talking to Rel theoretically about this movie to Rel becoming Joe and us essentially being a documentary crew capturing what happened as he was in there.”

The Mill is now streaming on Hulu.