“The Haunting of Hill House,” perfect horror show for Halloween season

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Ava Seccuro staff writer

Netflix released a modern retelling of Shirley Jackson’s 1959 gothic novel, “The Haunting of Hill House” in a 10-episode series on Oct. 12. Other viewers have claimed that the show is “so scary that they want to vomit,” however, for Highlights, that has not been the case. At least not yet.

“The Haunting of Hill House” is not a classic slasher, nor is it hyperfocused on ghosts and the supernatural. It’s a dark, psychological thriller that connects the Crain family’s childhood demons with the past experiences of all five of the Crain family growing up in the “Hill House,” later recognized as America’s most famous haunted house. In each hour-long episode, a myriad of plot points and perspectives were addressed: changing points of view throughout the show through both flashbacks and present day, haunted illusions affecting those in the house and in-depth character development.                                 

The show’s lasting impression is conveyed by setting a certain ambiance meant to scare the audience-and does a decent job of doing so. The majority of scenes are embellished with dim lighting and eerie music. Similarly, through special effects, screams and loud sounds that arise out of silence and the visions that the Crain family experience become a reality. More importantly, the acting is engrossing and admirably convincing, on behalf of both the child versions and adult version of the Crain family.

The essential concept of “The Haunting of Hill House” would have been even more interesting than it already is, if, in the early episodes, it would have been executed in a more straightforward fashion. As previously mentioned, the present day storyline, which is interrupted by the Crain children’s flashbacks, are almost indistinguishable from each other at times. Because some scenes have similar settings, the show editors use this as an excuse to fade in and out perspectives, which is confusing at first for some viewers. This clouds the communication of some essential plot points, but once viewers get familiar with the characters from each change in point of view, the messages become more clear.

The “Haunting of Hill House” ironically depicts more terrifying instances after the Crain family leaves the Hill House rather than while they’re living in it. The early episodes cover topics such as pedophilia, suicide and drug addiction. Both suicide and drug addiction infest the lives of the Crain family and are honestly much grimmer than any other focus in the show. The writers deliver an excellent variety of unfortunate events that interconnect so that the viewers can explicitly see the deep-rooted connections between their traumatic childhood and how it has influenced the tragedy they undergo during the show.

Aside from the emphasis on reality, the Hill House is actually haunted and is called as such for a reason. Throughout her childhood, Nell (Violet McGraw) has frequent encounters with this supernatural entity trademarked “the bent-neck lady.” What this “she” actually is, is a bit unclear in the first few episodes. One doesn’t know where “she” came from, whether “she” assumes the body of the Crain family’s late mother, if “she” is a figment of the children’s imagination/product of the house or if “she” is a legitimate spirit on her own. Nonetheless, the bent-neck lady is made of stuff from nightmares.

The scariest part about this show is the gruesome images of the children’s scarring experiences in the house that have manifested themselves in their everyday lives. However, whether or not viewers are so scared that they feel as though they would vomit is questionable. The content does get more frightening after each episode, but not yet has Highlights felt that level of fear.

Highlights would rate “The Haunting of Hill House” a 9/10. You can watch it here.

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