Review: “The Haunting of Hill House”

Lauryn Lin, Contributor

Netflix’s new TV series The Haunting of Hill House is a psychologically gripping “horror drama” directed by Mike Flanagan, who has risen to fame in horror with works like Oculus and Ouija: Origin of Evil. The series is loosely based on a 1959 novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson, which has been since remade into two films.

Flanagan toys with time by showing the Crain family in the past and the present. The Crain family temporarily moves into Hill House for parents Hugh (Henry Thomas) and Olivia (Carla Gugino) to remodel and sell it. During their time there, the children experience paranormal phenomena that haunts them into adulthood. Olivia commits suicide and it’s unclear if the horrors of the house or her mental illness is the cause. Siblings Steve (Michiel Huisman), Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser), Theo (Kate Siegel), and Luke (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) are forced to revisit the death of their mother and their own internal demons when their sister Nellie (Victoria Pedretti) decides to return to Hill House.

The ten hour-long episodes are unusual for horror, but Flanagan flawlessly maintains the fear in the audience throughout. With more time, we get a closer look at why the Crain kids are as messed up as they are. Many have compared the show to This Is Us, another drama where the family is still tormented by the death of a parent years after it happened. Because the show mixes past and present tense, it calls for a large cast in which every character has two parts that are essential to understanding the plot. Young Steve (Paxton Singleton) is overprotective of his younger siblings and is eager to grow up. Shirley (Lulu Wilson, who is present in various horror films) and Theo (Mckenna Grace) are constantly fighting, as sisters do. Twins Luke (Julian Hilliard) and Nellie (Violet McGraw) are the complete opposite being the best of friends. Steve becomes a writer who practically sells everyone’s trauma from the events at Hill House for an extra buck; this adds to the family conflict, especially with Shirley, who has a superiority complex. Theo grows up to be a child therapist who hasn’t examined her own psychological issues and Luke turns into a struggling drug addict. Nellie is drawn back to the source of all their problems which brings them back to the surface, including their father’s insistence on the house being haunted.

The Haunting of Hill House will touch your heart with its family dynamics (and dysfunction) but the ghosts (both literal and metaphorical) will keep you up at night. Although there is an element of terror weaved through the story, it is a beautiful lesson about love and family that teaches people to be honest with each other. Making the show poignant and real is why I deem it to be one of the best horror shows of the year.