Netflix Review: "The Haunting of Hill House"
Netflix continues to release more content than it knows what to do with, and oftentimes it’s hard to decide what to watch when there’s so much to choose from. That being said, “The Haunting of Hill House” should be at the very top of your list, as it is one of the best Netflix original shows, ever.
The Netflix show is based on a 1959 horror novel of the same name, written by Shirley Jackson, but much of this Netflix original is a modern retelling of the classic novel. The show revolves around the Crain family, consisting of a mother and a father and their five children. It constantly switches back and forth between the present day and their mutual past experiences while living at Hill House for over twenty years.
The Crain family’s experience at Hill House in the 1990s haunts them and follows them all the way through the present with each character having had very profound, very personal, and very traumatic experiences when they were younger. When a certain action triggers a series of events that brings the family back together from their mostly-separated adult lives, the horrors that affected them at Hill House beckon once more. Suddenly, the family finds themselves caught up in a mystery filled with loss, regret, and more questions than answers. Hill House, though perhaps only a house, harbors a secret and plants its’ mysteries and disquietness deep inside the minds of the characters that live in it. This mentally destroyed the family in the 1990s and plagues them to this day.
One tragic night, viewers can see the family gather and leave the house, never to return. In the present day, a new tragic night brings them together once more. They soon realize, as the experiences begin to worsen again, that the only way to come to terms with everything that happened at the since-abandoned Hill House is to confront it all head-on. The children return, now as an author, a mortician, a drug addict, a widow, and a freeloader, and they address the ghosts and horrors that terrified them as kids. But along the way of uncovering the true nature of all that happened at Hill House, their mental states and family bonds are tested in ways unlike anything they had ever first experienced. Memories and their ambiguity are a key feature of the show. And no detail has been chosen accidentally; every aspect of the show was chosen directly, either as a callback or as a thematically symbolic element.
Be sure to keep a watchful eye in the background of every scene, as ghosts can be seen lurking all throughout the episodes. Dozens have been found, but you’re likely to miss most of them in your first viewing. Because of this, director Mike Flanagan, actually recommends rewatching the first five episodes again before beginning the second half of the show, saying, “I would strongly recommend watching the first half twice because there’s quite a bit in there you might miss” (bloody-disgusting.com).
Terror, spanning decades, seems to follow the Crain family at every key junction of their lives. They must set aside their many differences in order to protect each other and prevent any more tragedy from befalling their fragile family. The show, underneath a scary exterior, is actually a lesson in learning to forgive, remembering not to forget, processing grief, and the familial responsibilities of not only blood relatives but also those who depend on you. When all is on the line, it’s your core stability that will get you through the night, as well as those you love who have your back.
Be forewarned that some of the jumpscares in the show are very intense, so it may not be for everyone. “The Haunting of Hill House” pulls on your heartstrings while also scaring the living daylights out of you. It’s quite the juxtaposition. The cinematography, visual effects and writing are all top-notch, and it truly stands out against some of the mindless drivel that largely dominates much of the television and film industry today. Episode six is one of the single best episodes, cinematographically speaking, of any show that I’ve ever seen.
If you can look past the scariness of the show, the writing will certainly impress you, as it is already widely popular even though it has only been out for a few weeks. Definitely check out “The Haunting of Hill House” if you want something new and thrilling to watch, and buckle up, because it’s one hill of a ride.