Have you heard of The Haunting of Hill House? If not then I implore you to get on Netflix and binge watch it. Afterwards, come back and read my review. It isn’t an understatement to say that this show has made waves. Stephen King himself has labelled it “close to a work of genius”. There have even been reports of people passing out due to have terrifying it is. The hype train is at full speed but should you get aboard? Created by Mike Flanagan, it is loosely based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson.
In the summer of 1992, Hugh and Olivia Crain temporarily move into an old mansion called Hill House. They have five children: Steven, Shirley, Theodora (Theo), Luke, and Eleanor (Nell). Throughout their time at Hill House, the family all experience strange paranormal activity. The children regularly have nightmares and visions of horrifying figures within the property. However, Olivia is effected far more than any of them. Slowly, she becomes increasingly psychologically scattered. Tensions continue to build more and more until inevitably tragedy strikes.
26 years after the events at Hill House, the family are forced back together due to further devastation. Slowly, they must all come to terms with what took place during their time there. The show switches between the present and past as each of them confront their inner demons.
I remember watching the trailer for The Haunting of Hill house and not being particularly impressed, man was I wrong. If like me, you thought this was going to be just another generic horror series then think again. The show is very character focused, you will get to know each person very well. It does a wonderful job of developing them into feeling like well-rounded, real people. They have flaws and have made mistakes but each have a fascinating story to tell.
Nothing feels like unnecessary padding in The Haunting of Hill House. The tale is very in-depth and detailed. I felt fully invested in the story and its well defined characters. I really enjoyed how it goes between the past and present. It felt like I was completing the puzzle at the same time as the characters.
Hill House is a stunning location for any TV show or movie. This series does a great job of making the house have a strong presence, like its very own character entirely. The cinematography is amazing throughout. The camera expertly follows characters, allowing you to see everything it wants you to. However, there are even hidden details within certain scenes. I never knew what to expect, it really keeps you on your toes at all times.
The narrative is strong but how’s the cast? To call the performances high quality feels like an understatement, everyone is that good. Also, a special mention for the casting as a whole. The younger versions of characters look and act so much like their older counterparts you’d swear it was them. I found it tough to tell who was who for the first episode or two due to how much they look like actual siblings. The dialogue between everyone is very well-written, it feels realistic and never forced.
Now for the big question, was The Haunting of Hill House scary? In my opinion, not really. Still, it does a brilliant job of building tension and creating a creepy atmosphere. It certainly didn’t make me pass out from fear, that’s for sure. It does succeed in delivering lots of traumatic, memorable imagery. Even though scares are built well, they don’t land as well as they should.
The show is constantly providing you with rational explanations to what you’re seeing. Naturally, you start believing that is a possibility that it is all in the mind. Therefore, it damages the impact of certain potentially scary moments. The ghosts that we do see look the part but they fail to feel overly threatening due to the fact that they rarely if ever physically harm anyone. The story and characters are so interesting that the ghostly elements of the show often feeling like somewhat of a distraction. Also, the scares that do take place often result in a jump scare. Now, I’m not usually a fan but The Haunting of Hill House executes these as well as anyone ever could. Other than a few moments of dodgy CGI, the effects are great.
When I think of this TV show, I know I’ll remember it for the emotional impact it had rather than if it was scary or not. It deals with a lot of relevant themes, including: metal illness, suicide and the effects death can have on the people left behind. Accompanying all of it is a beautiful score. The 10 episode series is packed with legitimately heart wrenching moments. Each episode somehow manages to surpass the previous one in terms of quality, always leaving you wanting more.
If I had to pick a favourite episode is would easily be between “The Bent-Neck Lady” & “Two Storms”, both are amazing.
I loved the ambiguity surrounding the supernatural elements in the show. It makes you question everything you see and its legitimacy just as many of the characters do. The finale delivers a satisfying payoff for every character and even saves its biggest emotional gut punch for last.
Overall, The Haunting of Hill House is deserving of its high praise. It is somewhat of a slow burn that requires your patience and investment. Still, it rewards you with something truly heart-warming and memorable. It may not live up to the hype when it comes to the horror elements but it never really had a chance in first place.
The Haunting of Hill House
The Final Score - 9/10
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