Television Review: ‘Haunting of Hill House’ makes spooky debut

Emily J. Sullivan
Staff Writer

Houses are like bodies, they have a heart, bones, skin… and a stomach.

“The Haunting of Hill House” is the perfect binge series to get you seriously spooked in time for Halloween. The Netflix original series, a reimagining based on the 1959 gothic horror novel by Shirley Jackson, has been a trending topic on social media feeds everywhere.

The ghost tale has elements of terror to attract horror flick fanatics without the gore that might turn the more timid viewers away. The plot and storyline is rich, with lore upon which any truly haunted house depends. The series ponders which came first– the history that makes a house haunted or the house itself that haunts?

The show follows a family of seven, two loving parents and their five children, while skipping between past and present, reality and dreams. Hugh and Olivia Crain move into Hill House as a temporary stop. They plan to flip the house and sell it for more than they bought it, while planning to move on to the home of their dreams with extra cash in the bank. Their plans are derailed when renovating the old home with a massive floorplan and baroque detailing proves harder than anticipated. The house has secrets that it does not want to be fixed.  

When the series shows the siblings later in life, it is clear the house’s impact has followed them into adulthood, fracturing their relationships with one another and tarnishing their general view of the world. Steven Crain, played by Michiel Huisman, the eldest brother, writes books about his perception of the house in a cathartic attempt. Shirley, played by Elizabeth Reaser, the eldest sister, owns a funeral home. Another sibling, Theo, played by Kate Siegel, becomes a psychologist. The youngest of the bunch, twins Luke and Nell, played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Victoria Pedretti, struggle and suffer deeply, one from a heroin addiction and the other from depression and recurring sleep paralysis.

The tortured siblings seem to have never really escaped the house and its haunts at all. They carry the weight of the events that took place like bricks on their back, and they feel drawn to the house in spite of their terror.

The series has received an abundance of attention, even with a rave review from the king of horror himself, Stephen King.

I don’t usually care for this kind of revisionism, but this is great. Close to a work of genius, really. I think Shirley Jackson would approve, but who knows for sure,” King said in a tweet last week.

The series is visually stunning with superior cinematography, expertly cast with perfect pairings of the five younger Crain siblings with their older adult selves, and written in a way that makes the horror genre series surpass its competitors by adding elements of drama and mystery.

Set aside ten hours as soon as possible and binge the scary, spooky, mysterious and dramatic series. Immediately.

Emily J. Sullivan can be reached at emily.sullivan@laverne.edu.

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