Let me begin by saying The Haunting of Hill House is creepy! There are minimal jump scares, it moves at a slightly slower pace and contains limited gore but the ghosts that haunt the house and the story line itself leaves you with goosebumps. The Haunting of Hill House is an ambitious Netflix series which achieves the difficult task of maintaining the suspense, eeriness and horror of Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel, of the same name, across 10 episodes. Unlike the one episode-one story structure of series’ such as Black Mirror, or the quirky stylings of American Horror Story this MA 15+ rated series (as rated in Australia) follows the same family, the Cranes, shifting back and forth between the past and present to explore the hauntings and haunted residents of Hill House.
This reimagining follows the Crane family – Olivia (mum), Hugh (dad), Steve (eldest son turned haunted house writer), Shirley (eldest daughter and owner of her own mortuary), Theodora “Theo” (middle child, psychologist with a psychic ‘gift’) and youngest twins Eleanor “Nell” and Luke (both arguably some of the most haunted residents). The family itself purchases Hill House, along with inheriting the previous caretakers, with the aim of flipping it to build their ‘forever house’ but as with most haunted houses this plan is quickly undone by the ghosts and house itself.
Directed by Mike Flanagan, of Gerald’s Game and Hush fame, there was much hype for this series before it even begin. And its timing, around Halloween alongside The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, could not have been more perfect. But far greater than its timing, dark lighting or exceptional set pieces is the team of writers. A vast majority of the episodes were also written by Mike Flanagan, with Jeff Howard (Gerald’s Game, Ouija and Oculus) making significant contributions. Meredith Averill (Jane the Virgin and The Good Wife), Liz Phang (The Strain, most recent 90210), Scott Kosar (Bates Motel, The Machinist, and the remakes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Amityville Horror), Charise Castro Smith (The Exorcist TV series) and Rebecca Klingel (Life one Mars and The Good Wife) are also credited as writing an episode each. What this team has created is a cleverly intertwined series which seamlessly shifts between past and present using each episode to present the perspective of a different family member. Hill House shows foresight into the direction of the series and what will occur in the finale without giving too much away. It is widely thought that inspiration for each of the first five episodes, and indeed the characters they focus on, is drawn from the five stages of grief – denial (Steve), anger (Shirley), bargaining (Theo), depression (Nell) and acceptance (Luke). But these are not the only clever intricacies of the series, although it would be difficult to tell you any more without giving it away.
The series is dark, at times it makes your skin crawl and is filled with ghosts hidden in the background of an abundance of scenes – worth a second watch to try and spot them, or just google them, although this somehow makes the series more terrifying as they are hidden EVERYWHERE!! I have now watched it twice and would watch it again in a heartbeat. I also canNOT wait until season two (confirmed release 2020) – The Haunting of Bly Manor based on the Henry James novel The Turn of the Shrew. Some critics would argue that the ending is a little light, but Flanagan felt he couldn’t leave us completely in the dark and quite frankly I needed that in my life.
So with this in mind I give The Haunting of Hill House 5 out of 5 birds – Erin
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