“The Haunting of Hill House” lures its victims inside with the practiced ease of a spider coaxing a fly into its parlor. It’s beautiful and falling apart at the seams, just like the family who inhabits its wallpapered halls.
This is the third adaption of Shirley Jackson’s spine-chilling novel, following two films. The director Mike Flanagan previously worked on the films “Oculus,” “Hush” and “Ouija: Origin of Evil.” Actors from his repertoire make an appearance in this new series.
Comprised of a 10-episode season, the Netflix show shifts between the horror the Crain family experienced during their brief stay at Hill House in their adolescence and the turbulent adulthood that follows each sibling. This is a story that comes full circle. The audience sits in paralysis while each episode traces their tragic trajectory that leads them straight back to the root of all evil: Home.
Located just outside of Boston, the fictional Hill House rests on a spacious plot of land filled with woods, lush grass and the promise of a beautiful summer. It’s picturesque setting masks the dark history of the family from which it gains its name and the terror it will soon inflict on its new hosts. Unknowingly, Hugh and Olivia Crain purchased this decrepit mansion with the intentions of flipping the property for a sizable profit in order to acquire their “forever home.” The theme of the “forever home” returns again and again, stressing that the siblings need one another regardless of the problems that have splintered their relationships with one another. It also takes on a menacing tone in regards to the fact Hill House is in itself a “forever home” for all those who have died there and will die there. This includes Olivia, whose hallucinations and death drive the family away from the house in the middle of the night for decades to come.
What goes bump in the night takes on new meaning as the children, Steven, Shirley, Theo, Luke and Nel individually discover the ghosts and ghouls that reveal themselves when they’re at their most vulnerable. The ghosts feed on the already present insecurities and anxieties that arise and bubble up, specifically with Nel and Olivia.
As adults, mental illness, drugs and depression are some of the problems that replace the ghosts of their past and dredge up memories of the night when their family crumbled in on itself. At the heart of the series, the issues of family and loss resonate strongly with people watching at home. It’s not only a ghost story, but a family learning to heal together.
While the middle episodes pack a punch to the heart and psyche, the end doesn’t quite meet expectations. Utilizing Jackson’s quotes from the novel, the voiceover cheapens the resolve and attempts to tie the show off with a bow. Here’s hoping for a season two!
Rating: 4 out of 5
Sarah Baksh is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.