I saw a comment that described The Haunting of Hill House as “horror meets This is Us” which I completely agree with. The Haunting of Hill House manages to tell a beautiful, bittersweet story about a broken family, with themes of love, loss and sacrifice woven throughout, under the guise of a haunted house horror, and it pulls it off flawlessly.
The Haunting of Hill House was released on Netflix a week ago just in time for Halloween, and is worth every moment of your time. The movie is directed by Mike Flanagan, who is no stranger to the horror genre. In addition to this, he has recently directed the Stephen King adaptation of Gerald’s Game, where you’ll also see the familiar face of Carla Gugino who also plays a lead role in The Haunting of Hill House.
This Netflix series is the adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel from 1953 of the same name. The book has been adapted before into two movies, one in the 1960s, and another in the 1980s. Though, Mike Flanagan manages to breathe new life into the text, adapting it for modern day audiences and in the process keeping the integrity intact.
The best way to describe the story of The Haunting of Hill House, is that whilst it might be about a haunted house at the core, that’s not where the only ghosts are. It has ghosts of all kinds, the secrets you keep hidden, the skeletons you hide in the closet, and the grief that haunts you. Its not just about the house, but the story following the effects and aftermath that stalk the children as they grow up.
There isn’t a single thing I’d change about this series. The pacing, the music, the scares, the writing, its all well done. Even during my re-watch, I was still just as engaged as my first viewing. The series holds up well, and I was noticing so much more small details, like the ghost that would be hidden away in the back of a scene, staring out at the family.
Its hard to talk about the writing and story of this series, without spoiling any of the twists. But the writers of The Haunting of Hill House did an amazing job. Even the smallest of details added up to something later on, and came full circle. The characters felt real, they were flawed and fallible, which made them relatable. Even if you didn’t particularly like them, you could empathise with them. All the themes and messages were well explored too, I loved how they handled the idea of paranormal versus mental health too. Whilst that’s a premise I’ve seen overused in horror, The Haunting of Hill House makes it feel like a breath of fresh air.
It’s hard to choose and pick out a singular stand out performance when everyone is amazing. Carla Gugino, who has worked with Mike Flanagan before, played her role as a grieving mother, and the descent into madness perfectly. Similarly, Henry Thomas and Timothy Hutton both play the counter role, as the husband and father just as well. The acting from the children were also surprisingly great, and their counterparts for when their older were just as good.
When watching The Haunting of Hill House, whilst you should definitely prepare a tissue box, you should also be ready for all the scares. This series doesn’t rely on the use of jump scares often either, and when there is any, it had built up to that point and earned it anyway.
Scenes in Hill House, are creepy and disturbing. Not only do they get under your skin, and in your head, but they’re well thought out too. They aren’t just there for the sake of scaring you too, they are used as foreshadowing, or even hidden away in a scene to build up the atmosphere. The Haunting of Hill House carefully crafts such a beautiful, and terrifying atmosphere and doesn’t break out of it at any point.
Even if you aren’t a huge fan of horror, I still recommend giving The Haunting of Hill House a try if you have a Netflix account. The series delivers some great messages when it comes to the topics of family, relationships, and mental health, which offer some great insight and perspective.
If this article isn’t enough to convince you to give it a watch, maybe the King himself (pardon the pun), Stephen King can!
THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, revised and remodeled by Mike Flanagan. I don’t usually care for this kind of revisionism, but this is great. Close to a work of genius, really. I think Shirley Jackson would approve, but who knows for sure.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) 17 October 2018