By Ayden Dant
Netflix’s adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House debuted October of 2018, and was the first in an anthology series, promised by Netflix. The drama/horror takes us through the past and present lives of the 7-member Crain Family, who had encounters with paranormal activity. The family, consisting of children Steven, Shirley, Luke, Theo, and Nell, as well as parents Olivia and Hugh Crain, moved into a haunted mansion in 1992. The house presents itself as a beautiful mansion, and the family cannot wait to move in. By the end of the summer, however, the family would find themselves one member short, and forever haunted by the paranormal occurrences.
The Haunting of Hill House is a complex narrative, split into two time-frames: that of the family’s stay at the house (1992), and present (2018). The show constantly switches between the two, and eventually reveals the origin of the Crain’s present-day conflicts, as well as offering explanations for some of the ‘paranormal’ events. In 2018, 26 years after Hill House’s events, the children are brought together after Nelly’s suicide. To add to the unsettling nature, Nell committed this act in the same fashion and location as her mother: both suicide by hanging, both at Hill house. Although initially unclear, the series slowly explains why Nell and Olivia killed herself, and how abandonment of friends and family can lead to disaster. Each hour-long episode offers insight on the exact night the Crains left; the night of Olivia’s suicide. We are given small snippets of the family’s flee from the house on their final night, but it is not until the final episode that it is broken down and explained. Multiple perspectives of many of the family’s events are given, providing insights on how each member experienced everything differently.
Each character goes through their own self-growth during the series, and the family, broken by Hill House’s events, are connected back together by the end. We learn why the family is the way they are, and family should always look out for each other. We also get a glimpse into the thought process of those with mental illnesses, including addiction and schizophrenia. The show always leaves viewers on the edge of their seats, and offers an occasional scare, as Hill House’s mysteries are unveiled. The house’s center, known as the ‘Red Room’ reveals its purpose, and how each room of the house changes the family, using scenes from the past and present to stitch together the obscure history of the Crains. We understand who jiggled the door knob in episode three and gave us the familiar unsettlingly feeling, and what was really making the noise in the walls. It is through giving explanations of the big picture, as well as these small instances, that makes the show all-the-more satisfying.
The Haunting of Hill House is for those who enjoy a supernatural horror/mystery, and enjoy piecing together the plot of a show, rather than everything presented to you traditionally. I recommend the show for horror-lovers, and anyone who is looking for a great show to binge.