There are phrases one expects from home renovation shows.
“This might be a load-bearing wall,” for instance. Or “the vaulted ceiling makes the space feel bigger.” Or “this kitchen needs updating.”
Completely unexpected is a declaration like, “This is where she dragged the bodies down to the yard.” That is, until Quibi’s “Murder House Flip” came along.
The series mashes up two of our collective obsessions: true crime and home renovations. The brainchild of “CSI” producer Josh Berman, “Penny Dreadful” producer Chris King and author Katherine Ramsland, the series features hosts Joelle Uzyel and Mikel Welch as they help transform homes where murders have happened.
“I’ve done other home makeover shows. This is the first one where research meant talking to police departments,” says showrunner and executive producer Star Price. “My feeling through the whole process was that we had to be self aware of what we were doing. We couldn’t take it too earnestly and at the same time we couldn’t be disrespectful ... and at times we could have fun.”
Four California homes get a makeover over the course of the show’s first season — and “each house gets three Quibis,” Price says, referring to the short-form, mobile-only platform’s 10-minute episode format. The first site featured is the Victorian-style home where Dorothea Puente, the notorious Sacramento landlady who was convicted in the ‘90s for killing tenants and burying several of her victims. (Puente died in 2011.)
“It’s actually sad to say it isn’t hard to find homes where murders took place,” Price says. The challenge was finding homes where notable crimes took place — “that were interesting at some level, as tragic as they were” — and willing homeowners who were looking, and in some cases desperate, for some sort of reboot to their house.
The process of making contact with the homeowners to narrow down the list took on a variety of tactics: “We did door knocks, we did Facebook searching, we had some recommendations from police departments... We tried everything,” Price says.
Deciding what area of the home to make over is guided by the homeowners. An upcoming episode features a young couple living in Oceanside, Price says. The couple were informed when they purchased their home that a man dismembered his wife in the bathtub.
“Every time they took a shower, they couldn’t get past it,” Price says. “So we had to give them an entirely new bathroom ... and in the process of doing that, found something disturbing. And I’ll just leave it at that.”
Tease or not, being in the rooms where heinous acts occurred brought an eeriness to production.
“We do a story in Canoga Park where a young woman is sleeping in the same bedroom where a child actress was murdered, with the bed in the same place,” Price says. “We walked in that room and we just all looked at each other like, something is really wrong with this space. So yeah, it was there the whole time.”