‘The Haunting of Hill House’ is more than just terrifying
I’m taking a step out of my usual “Throwback Thursday” comfort zone into something new this week. Technically “The Haunting of Hill House” isn’t a movie, however I just watched it for the third time since August and I really want to talk about how much I love it.
Hill House is a 10 episode mini-series released in 2018 by streaming giant Netflix. It was created and directed by Mike Flanagan and loosely based on the 1959 Shirley Jackson novel of the same name.
Hill House takes place between two timelines and centers around the Crain siblings — Steven, Shirley, Theodora, Eleanor and Luke — who went through a deeply traumatic event in the summer of 1992 which took their mother Olivia (Carla Gugino) from them.
Two decades later and they still haven’t quite processed the traumas they experienced during their short stay at Hill House.
Eleanor (Victoria Pedretti) suffers from sleep paralysis and delusions. Her twin Luke (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) turned to drugs to cope and is going through another stint in a rehabilitation facility. Theo (Kate Siegel) inherited a certain “sensitivity” from her mother and refuses to let anyone close. Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser), the head strong and stand offish oldest sister, owns a mortuary with her husband Kevin and does her best to help others through the loss of a loved one — just like a funeral director did for her after Olivia’s death. And Steven (Michiel Huisman), the oldest, is constantly at odds with his siblings. Especially after he publishes a book about the summer they spent at Hill House.
The dynamic between the Crain siblings is truly what makes this series. Their are multiple moments that feel very raw and real, and as one of four siblings, I feel confident I can say that.
However, the two performances that really stand our for me are Gugino and Pedretti.
Over time you begin to see cracks in Olivia as Hill House and its supernatural energy begins to slowly get under her skin and inside her head. Because of the time jumps, not everything is in order, but you can tell how close you are to Olivia’s demise by how Gugino has presented her character.
Pedretti though takes the cake. This was her first major acting role out of college and honestly you wouldn’t know it. In the Eleanor-centric episode (the most heart breaking I might add) you watch her unravel slowly over a two-year span, the strings of her sanity fraying even faster when The Bent Neck Lady from her childhood begins to haunt her once again.
By the end of her episode you’re begging Flanagan to have a heart and spare this sweet angel from anymore pain. I believe the term I’ve seen a lot to describe someone like Ellie is “cinnamon roll” and honestly it’s accurate.
I went into Hill House expecting to be scared out of my mind. I didn’t expect to cry and feel for these characters like I did but I’m glad for it. Flanagan didn’t just use jump scares and a creepy atmosphere for his show. He weaved together a complicated but compelling family dynamic which makes you root for these characters, empathize with their struggles… and then he puts them into terrifying, heart pounding situations that makes you curse the day you decided to click “watch episode.”
Just kidding, this show is an absolute masterpiece. Given its 8.6/10 on IMDb, 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and overall critical reception I think I’m not the only one who thinks so.
Its follow up “The Haunting of Bly Manor” is also amazing too I might add. Maybe I’ll review that one sometime, who knows.
“The Haunting of Hill House” is definitely not for the faint of heart and should probably be watched without the kids. It’s rated TV-MA and is a must for your watchlist if you’re a fan of the horror genre.
And yes, I’m aware this isn’t a movie. Just consider it 10 mini-movies you can watch over the course of a week (or less if you’re like me).
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Laura Jameson is a staff reporter for The Express.