The Haunting Of Hill House (2018)
A dark, decaying house. A locked door which can`t be opened. Disturbing sounds in the night. Animals that suddenly die inexplicably. Mysterious figures that only children can see at bedtime and who are gone when father and mother rush to the aid.
We’ve seen this kind of tricks in one thrill after the other, and we’re getting the whole parade again in Netflix’s great Halloween series, The Haunting of Hill House.
But it doesn’t make you tired to see it all over again; it is because The Haunting of Hill House has some tricks that only the best thrillers have figured out. For example, the horror not only depends on the ghosts but also on the living people.
The woman with the broken neck
The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix is the serial version of Shirley Jackson’s famous horror novel of the same name, which also became a film in both 1963 and 1999.
But Mike Flanagan, who has both written and directed, has found his own inventive way to retell the Crain family`s story, who lives in America’s most famous haunted house.
He introduces us to the five Crain siblings as adults, each suffering from the trauma of the few months they spent in the terrifying Hill House as children. Things happened then, things they still don’t quite understand or believe. Also, the stay at the haunted house ended in a tragic loss for the family.
Shirley is the responsible older sister who acts as the mother of her adult siblings and jealously tries to compensate for the shocking experiences of the past when she is confronting death in her job as an occupant.
Theo is the family’s lesbian too-cool-to-care provocateur. And Steven is the razor-sharp big brother who has become skeptical and cynical of the unexplainable experiences of childhood, which he flatters in a ghost novel “based on real-life events” that has become a bestseller against the family’s wishes and to their regrets.
But the youngest twins Luke and Nell surfers significantly under the pasts experiences. Luke has become a drug addict, while Nell has sleep paralysis and some very scary nightmares. And when Nell again begins to see “The woman with the broken neck” who haunted her as a child, the whole family is forced to face the horrors of the past.
Jump scares going straight into the artery
One of the fascinating tricks the Haunting of Hill House can do is link past and present with the power of memories. Every time one of the five siblings sees, hears or smells something that reminds them of childhood, we jump back to Hill House.
Here, the children’s mother begins to lose herself in what first looks like a migraine, but later slips into a mental disorder. Or something even darker.
Each section chooses one of the five siblings as a protagonist. And while sharing childhood memories, the series shows elegantly that they dont necessarily remember the events of the past the same. Although some scenes return several times, they are never quite the same.
The children actors easily live up to the high level of the adult Crain family. And it is especially in the scenes from childhood that The Haunting of Hill House demonstrates the horror of the old school.
There is such a long distance between jump scares that you forget to be on guard. And when they come, they go straight to the artery. As when Shirley’s kittens suddenly die and are ready to be buried in a beautifully decorated box. Until they suddenly move.
The Ghosts of Reality
But behind half-closed doors, one can slowly start to see the shapes of the family drama hiding under the horror.
It’s not jump scares, you remember, but heartbreaking scenes like the one where Steven comes home and finds his drug-dependent brother Luke in the process of stealing his iPad and SLR camera.
And it’s not to spot the next ghost, you continue watching, but because every member of the Crain family is a person you want to follow in another episode. And because one can sense all the way that the supernatural mystery is unexplained linked to human experiences such as guilt, sorrow and need.
“Ghosts are nothing but what we want to see,” said skeptic Steven. “A ghost is a wish.”
The Haunting of Hill House understands ghosts better than most horrors. Both how they mirror the darkness in ourselves, but fortunately also how they thoroughly scare the crap out of us.
Watch the trailer below. But I recommend watching the series instead.