NOTE: Spoilers ahead. Proceed at your own risk.
Trauma, if left unattended builds walls. And soon enough you find yourself roaming hallways with no windows, running from answers you don’t want but get haunted by them anyway.
That is the running theme of Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House.
Loosely borrowed from Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name from the 50s, the Netflix original has managed to the capture the minds of horror movie geeks, who until now were tired of the same Ed & Lorraine-jumpscare monster-on-the-cupboard bullshit.
The ghosts of Hill House aren’t nameless creatures of the night but personal manifestations of characters they continue to drain of sanity.
If anything, they are but braille to the ones who refuse to see the truth they want to vanquish.
It is as much a paranormal story as it is a concentration of grief and trauma and the way they continue to handicap people long after the actual events unfold.
Director Mike Flanagan gives us the story of the Crain family who had moved to the Hill House in the early 90s with the intention to restore it, sell it and get enough profit to buy their ‘forever house’.
As they explore the house, the youngest of them all, the twins Nell and Luke feed off of its darkness in a way that only children could: apparitions in the dark, ‘imaginary’ friends among others.
On one very particular night, Hugh wakes up Steve and asks him to close his eyes and run. They all escape the house leaving the mother behind. We are told that she died but the exact reason for her death kept hidden from the children.
Each of the Crain siblings gets an episode of their own, beginning from their point of view on the death of their mother to another tragic event that unites them under one roof, keeping the Hill house as the central character to their perspectives.
We find out later that the only two children present during the death of their mother were Nell and Luke and thus, are the ones most affected by it.
Nell, who was haunted by the ghost of the ‘Bent-Neck-Lady’ finds out that it was her all alone, a symbol which represents that all the Crains suffered from phantoms of their own making.
Nell’s death happens at the exact spot her mother died all those years ago, either by mental illness or ghosts; ghosts that might be imaginary but are real to the people they ruin.
The Haunting of Hill House makes efficient use of its settings, resulting in jump scares and ghosts roaming the halls. But it doesn’t depend on that to scare you.
Sure, it begins that way but the real horror is how deep it penetrates the characters and affects the rest of their lives.
It is an extremely well-directed show, one that doesn’t keep you up at night but haunts your dreams.
It's well written with refined characters that are yet so raw that they touch you. Hell, the show even got a thumbs up by the great Stephen King himself. Calling it a work of genius, King said,
I don’t usually care for this kind of revisionism, but this is great. Close to a work of genius, really. I think Shirley Jackson would approve, but who knows for sure.
Now that the King himself approves, start watching the damn show. It's an experience.