Confronting the Ghosts of the Past
Review: The Haunting of Hill House
Starring Michiel Huisman, Paxton Singleton, Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas, Timothy Hutton, Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Julian Hilliard, Annabeth Gish, Anthony Ruivivar, Kate Siegel, McKenna Grace, Victoria Pedretti, and Violet McGraw
Based loosely off the classic 1959 horror novel of the same name, The Haunting of Hill House is a horror series that haunts viewers long after the credits roll.
The series follows the Cranes, a family whose lives are indelibly shaped by their short time living at the haunted Hill House. Now affected by addictions and feeble attempts to rationalise what they experienced there, the family is scattered, their relationships with one another having broken down. Drawn back together by tragic circumstances, they find themselves in direct confrontation with their past.
In many ways The Haunting of Hill House is similar to the classic horror game Silent Hill 2. The unseen and the dread surrounding the setting is worse than seeing the house’s ghosts that haunt it. And much like Silent Hill, the horrors that the characters experience are not only ghosts of the dead but confrontations with their own grief, their unresolved trauma, addictions, and resentment. In this way, the show eschews rigid literalness and honours the original novel’s ambiguity. Its story is a slow burn that takes its time with establishing all of its set pieces.
The cast all deliver demanding material commendably. It is particularly worth noting how well the child actors fare, who have been paired well with counterparts that look like believable adult versions of them.
In much the same way as Stephen King’s novel It, the story has a progressive time-jump between two periods, as we get closer to finding out what happened on the fateful night that the show alludes to.
The way that The Haunting of Hill House treats faith is mixed. While one family who work at the house are depicted as fundamentalists who home school their child in a vain attempt to shelter her from the world, their faith is later depicted as something of a fortifying influence.
Needless to say, The Haunting of Hill House is a series that will not suit everyone and Insights only recommends it to those who can handle its suspense and at times outright gory horror. The show’s explorations of dependencies, how relationships can break down and be restored, and redemption put it above many other horror shows and it stands out as arguably Netflix’s best show so far. For those eagle-eyed viewers who want to dedicate themselves, the series’ other rewards include Easter eggs in the form of hidden ghosts scattered throughout.
Netflix have announced that the show’s follow up season will treat the series as an anthology. The Haunting of Bly Manor will loosely follow Henry James’ novel The Turning of the Screw.
The Haunting of Hill House is now streaming on Netflix.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor