I sat down at a reasonable time last night, intending to watch two or three episodes of ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ to get a feel for the show and write a review. At 1AM I found myself on episode 8 and unsure of where the time had gone.
‘The Haunting of Hill House’ is based on Shirley Jackson’s novel, and is one of the most successful at capturing the spirit of the story, even using some description right from the original book as narration. A family of seven moves into the mansion twenty-six years ago, the parents (Henry Thomas and Carla Gugino) planning to remodel and flip the house over the next 8 weeks. The idyllic temporary home quickly turns into a terrifying experience for the entire family, with a fallout that is effected them well into adulthood.
‘The Haunting of Hill House’ is a slow-burning ghost story, one that delves as much into the effects of death, guilt, and trauma on a family as much as it does into its spectral visitors. The first five episodes focus on giving each of the five children a voice. We find out what each of them experienced during their short time in the house. This is a smart play in that it helps us to understand them all as adults over the final five episodes, as well as make some connections that they haven’t clued in to individually. There is a creeping dread that is leading to a collision of past and present, and the interconnections will surprise you. The ghost effects are simple but genuinely creepy, and the child actors are amazing. There are a lot of blurred and shadowy movements, and many shots that are positioned so that the viewer is constantly on edge, anticipating that something sinister is about to make its move in the scene behind the characters.
While it does well as a modern gothic ghost story, the drama between the family members is just as intriguing as past and present are interwoven together and secrets and long buried memories begin to come to life. While ghost stories are generally fairly clichéd, this one does well to focus on the drama of the living rather than the history of the past. The audience doesn’t find out much about the former inhabitants, only as much as they need to. In the end, the history of the house doesn’t matter, only the impact that it has on the occupants.
‘The House on Haunted Hill’ delivers a chilling and atmospheric family drama just in time for Halloween! You can check out all ten episodes on Netflix now!