Horror has made a huge comeback in recent years. Gone are the cheesy slasher movies from the 90’s and in are the supernatural and things that go bump in the night. There has been a surge of new movies and TV series such as ‘Penny Dreadful’ and ‘American Horror Story’, and ‘The Conjuring’ films now have their own Conjuring Movie Universe. While many of these have been great (and others awful) – none of them have come close to the sheer terror you will feel while watching Netflix’s ‘The Haunting of Hill House’.
‘The Haunting of Hill House’ is a modern-day adaptation of Shirley Jackson's seminal gothic-horror novel from 1959, and tells the story of the Crain family who move into Hill House in the hopes of refurbishing the house, selling it on, and leaving as quickly as possible. Through a series of present-day happenings (where the characters are adults), to the flashbacks back to when they were children living at Hill House, we get to know each family member as the series progresses – starting with the oldest sibling Steve (‘Game of Thrones’ Michiel Huisman) in episode one.
In the present-day, the Crain family are dealing with their chaotic adult lives, ranging from one sibling with a drug problem to another who can’t bear to be touched by anyone. It’s all very intense and dramatic, so the absolute creepiness and WTF moments of the flashbacks are a welcome change of pace (at times). However, you soon begin to realise that the siblings are carrying their childhood baggage into their adulthood, and it’s manifesting into “hallucinations” that they cannot explain. *Cue spooky music*
What sets ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ apart from other TV series and movies of the horror genre, is that it’s not solely relying on the scares to be great; it’s a drama that just so happens to revolve around a family living in a haunted house and who keep seeing monsters during the night. It’s character driven, emotional, it stays grounded, and it’s certainly very creepy.
And oh boy, does the creepiness come. ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ is not for the faint hearted – there were moments when you'll need to pause the episode to catch your breath, and check your surroundings. The series is not gory, but it will make you jump, squirm, and cover your face in anticipation of what you know is bound to happen next. The “monsters” we see throughout the series are unique, and rather unfortunately at night time, very memorable.
Director Mike Flanagan ('Oculus') does a stellar job of dropping us into the tumultuous world of the Crain family; episode six in particular features scenes made up of rolling sequence shots without any cutaways, and the episode creates an intense sense of urgency and claustrophobia.
The acting is the only area where the series falls a little short. Carla Gugino is fantastic as mom Olivia, and steals every scene she is in - while her on-screen husband Hugh, played by Henry Thomas, is less so. The acting, especially at the beginning of the series, is sometimes wooden; Huisman does an okay job as the oldest sibling Steve – but you'll wish more screen time was given to the underused middle child Theo (Kate Siegal), who has a very interesting "gift".
All in all, if you are looking for something genuinely scary to watch this Halloween season, we can't recommend ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ enough. It’s a refreshing take on the horror genre, and is a TV series that we guarantee will give you chills. As the director Flanagan says, “In 90 minutes you can get away with scaring people three or four times. For something like this, over 10 hours, the rules are very different”. Happy screaming!
'The Haunting of Hill House' is available on Netflix today.