The Haunting of Hill House is a haunting, eerie family drama that crosses horror with grief and trauma. This 10-episode Netflix series is based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson and is directed by Mike Flanagan.
This show takes inspiration from Shirley Jackson’s book, but it is much more than a simple homage to the masterwork. It’s a tense, spooky story that also tackles complex issues like addiction, mental illness, and suicide.
It’s a great example of how the best shows combine an eerie setting with a mature storyline that can be both enthralling and thought-provoking. The series’ characters are well-drawn and the dialogue often feels intelligent.
What sets the show apart is its depiction of childhood trauma, and how it affects adults. It’s a fascinating idea that is at the heart of both Jackson’s original work and this new TV version, which explores generational trauma and how it manifests in the form of ghosts.
In this series, all of the Crain children are pushed to their limits by paranormal activity in their home. The youngest daughter, Nell, is terrorized by a specter she calls the Bent-Neck Lady (played by Carla Gugino). Her brother Luke has his own demon, a monstrously tall ghost who glides above the ground, steering him with a cane.
As a result of these experiences, the Crain children are all plagued with nightmares. They are also prone to flashbacks, where the past comes back to haunt them in their present.
Theo has the ability to see spirits and pick up on emotions through touch, something she inherited from her mother Olivia. She uses this gift to help her foster daughter, a girl who is being molested by her foster father.
She is able to find the girl’s foster father and gets him arrested. In addition, she is able to detect when people are hurting or dead through their touch. This ability also helps her save Nell from a brutal murder.
In this show, there are several scenes that make the viewer feel as if they have walked into a haunted house themselves. The first scene, where a young woman’s hands are grasped by a specter as she dies, is particularly terrifying.
There are a few other instances where this happens, too. In one, Theo holds Nell’s hand and she is frightened until she realizes that it’s not her own. Another scene is when Theo and her foster sister are holding each other’s hands and then suddenly the hands are grasped by a spirit.
The most visceral scares in the show come from these ghosts, who seem to wreak a real physical damage on the children who are the target of their presence. The specter of the bent-neck lady is especially stomach-churning, as she hovers over Nell for 72 minutes in one episode and then stalks her through the night.
The show’s other most terrifying specter is the demon that stalks Luke, who can also be seen by Eleanor and her twin, Theodora. It’s a malevolent demon, as the ghost is tall and cane-wielding. And it’s also a ghost who seems to be trying to warn the Crain family of their impending upcoming tragedy.