TITLE: The Haunting of Hill House
RELEASED: October 12, 2018
CAST: Carla Gugino, Michiel Huisman, Victoria Pedretti, Henry Thomas, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Elizabeth Reaser, Kate Siegel
MY RATING: 5/5
MY IMDB RATING: 10/10
What does an average horror fan expect from a highly anticipated horror series which is also an adaptation of a cult novel? It seems that the opinions are very mixed. Some expected gore and a multitude of cheap jump-scares. Some expected ghosts in every scene but no jump-scares at all. Some expected a faithful adaptation of the book. None of them got what they wanted and the displease is evident in comments sections around the internet: “Cheap jump-scares every 20 minutes”; “A horrible adaptation”; “No jump-scares, too much drama”; “A horror version of ‘This is us’ “; “Too many flashbacks”. Then, why is The Haunting of Hill House currently holding a 9.1 overall rating on IMDB, something extremely rare for horror genre? Let me tell you.
First of all, this is not an adaptation of the novel, and you should know that before you watch it. This series is only inspired by the book. It took the Hill House and put it in a completely different setting, with different characters and events. It’s an homage to Jackson’s novel, and it pays her respect in every episode. There are repeating character names, some powerful quotes from the book, a character is named Shirley, and you can even see one character reading “The Lottery”, but that’s it. These are all nods to the original work from which the house was borrowed and used to create something on a whole different level – a masterpiece. For me at least.
The Haunting of Hill House has no flashbacks. If the timeline is equally divided between two time periods – you can’t call the older ones flashbacks. I’ve seen many people having trouble with this, so let me put it simply so you can decide for yourselves if you want to watch it or not – there’s nothing simple here. This isn’t a show to pass your time or to watch it before bed and fall asleep halfway. It is the kind where you have to pay attention, where every single scene and dialogue bit has a certain importance, a show filled with symbolism and hidden things you may or may not see the first time you watch it. It’s a puzzle. I’ve talked about this before, with shows like Castle Rock and Dark. It’s the kind of thing where you have to actively participate in and turn on your brain cells. Some like this, others not, I totally get that, but the whole point of me saying this is that all those negative comments out there come from people who don’t usually like this kind of thing but they watched it because they expected gore and jump-scares. If you’re one of the people who does like this type of thing, please continue reading.
The mini series revolves around the Crain family: father Hugh, mother Olivia, the eldest child Steve, then Shirley, Theo(dora), and the youngest, the twins Nell and Luke. The main timelines are then and now. Then: The Crains flip houses, and the last one they bought, The Hill House, is supposed to be their last, where they should earn enough money to build their own permanent home – the forever house. After only a single day in Hill House, strange and horrifying things start happening to each child, and the parents dismiss these events as nightmares and try to find a logical answer to the hauntings. Tension and fear build up quickly and result in a horrible tragedy which drives all family members, except one, out of the house. Now: Twenty-six years later, the Crain children are stranded from their father because of the secrets he still keeps about that last night in Hill House, but they are relatively close to each other. Steven is a successful author, mainly because he recounted the haunted house events in his first novel; Shirley runs a funeral home – a choice deeply influenced by her time spent at Hill House, and Theo, a children’s psychologist, lives with Shirley’s family; Luke is a heroin addict jumping in and out of rehab, and he’s long lost his sibling’s trust; Nell is the most tortured soul of them all, being the only one who’s brought the horrors from Hill House out of the house and into her adult life. Then another family tragedy strikes, and once again the answers are nowhere to be found.
As I’ve said, the show constantly jumps from then and now, with a couple of important scenes in between, but the lines are seamless, the camera movements are beautiful and each frame is amazing and has something to tell, especially if you look hard enough. The cast is excellent, both the adults and kids, but I prefer the kids slightly more. The period in Hill House is gorgeous, the set is utterly Gothic, claustrophobic and haunting, and Carla Gugino as Olivia is a Gothic queen, in the ranks of Morticia Addams and Lily Munster. The modern period is equally terrifying and claustrophobic, because even outside the house, this whole family still feels its grip on their thoughts, relationships and even their sanity.
I can’t say much else because this show is a yarn you’ll want to unravel yourself, it’s delightful, original, creepy and painful at times, but it’s definitely a one-of-a-kind experience filled with beautiful imagery and spooky secrets which will follow you to bed once you’re done watching.
Anyone watched this yet, or are you planning to? If you did, what did you think? Let me know in the comments and no spoilers please. 😉