The Haunting of Hill House

So, I would usually gush about a film or tv show that I loved or hated or just had a lot of thoughts about on twitter, but I mean why do that when I can write a whole blog about it? saves me having to shrink my words into limited characters or a thread and I can annoy fewer people with my opinions on here.

The Haunting of Hill House is a series currently on Netflix which is based on the 1959 gothic horror novel by Shirley Jackson. Now I started watching this after seeing a few people I follow say that it was very good and was doing a decent job of scaring them at the same time. I honestly had no idea about the plot or the characters or any spoilers (this will also be spoiler free don’t worry). Therefor I can not make any comments about the comparison between the original text and this show.

However, after bingewatching it in a day and a half all I can say is W O W.

Actually, I do have more to say than that because there’s so much praise I can give it.

The title kinda gives away that there will be an element of spookiness in the series and even within the first episode you are fully shown what to expect, in terms of the haunting of this magnificent place. All throughout the presence of the ghosts never stops being scary and unsettling, no matter what form they come in or how much they take part in the scene. There’re quite a few times when I’ve spotted a face subtly hidden in the darkness of the background staring, but that’s all they do and it’s so easily missed that it’s even more freaky if you do spot it. After a bit of research, I’ve discovered there are so many hidden ghosts that I’m definitely going to watch it again just for this reason.
Also Hill House is genuinely terrifying. I did watch the entire thing curled up with my laptop close to my face in a darkened room with the volume turned up loud (apart from about 20 minutes that I watched in a Costa before uni because I was dying to know what happened) so it did kinda get me more engrossed and easily scared but that’s how you’re supposed to experience scary things. You genuinely can’t even look at your phone for two seconds while watching this or you’ll probs miss something. With such genuine possible scares why would you choose to miss that by checking the time? There’s a lot of jumpscares…as in scary things that make you jump. Every single one of them got me for good reason, they never felt cheap and didn’t get old quick or feel forced. It’s the things that are scaring the characters and aren’t just put in to get a reaction from the audience like in most horror films with tacky jumpscares. I can admit to actually shouting and yanking my headphones out and pushing the laptop away from me because I was that freaked out, on more than one occasion. It’s the kind of exhilarating fear that makes you wanna pause what you’re watching to catch your breath and let your heart settle but you immediately play it again because you’ve gotta know what happens next. It’s brilliant.

Now I’m not really gonna go into details about the plot to encourage you to watch it yourself. Essentially, it follows a family of 5 siblings who previously lived in Hill House and their lives in the past and present. Here’s where I’m gonna talk about the only negative I have about the show, which I also will be explaining straight away why I think it’s allowed. I’ve always found when films or tv shows quickly flip between the past and the present it’s easy to mess it up and make it hella confusing for those watching. In this instance I do get why it’s done, because both the childhood and adulthood experiences of the family is important to fully understand the whole picture. This warped sense of time is important to the story. It builds up a clear dynamic and storyline between the family members. There are even a few times when we return to the same scene from a different perspective or with more information and that’s done with good reason, so even though it’s not chronological it is coherent. That being said I did binge watch the show so it was easy for me to remember these previous scenes but may not be so easily done if you pace the show out more. Either way the show does a fantastic job of revealing just enough new information to make some stuff make more sense but doesn’t give away the whole story. A few times you can tell it’s leading a certain way with characters but others you can’t see it until they’re staring you dead (maybe literally) in the face.

Another thing to mention is the amount of characters in it. I’d say there’s 7 main family members, 8 side characters and lots of ghosts! Now we do learn parts of the side characters, through their interactions with the mains one, so it’s easy to pick up the background/world building/relationships in your head. However, you would’ve thought with 7 family members – mum, dad, 2 boys, 3 girls AND the fact there’s two different timelines going on here it would get complicated? You wouldn’t be wrong to assume that and it does take a while to figure out which kid matches which adult, but once you’ve got the hang of it they match up fairly easily, or they did for me at least. The show does a good job of fully forming each individual character to feel like a complex human being, with clear reasonings behind their actions. You understand their behaviours or jobs or decisions or relationships because of the stuff they’ve done as a kid or how they’ve grown into the person they now are. I felt for this family. I cared about each and every one of them, just as much as when they were children as I did when they were adults. I understood their motives. In a 10 episode show with about 45 – 60 minutes each it can be hard to do that. I was fully invested in these people, they felt real to me and I was involved in their real lives not this fictional story.
The only shows that I can think of where I have felt this strongly for characters is those that I’ve watched for years, ones who have a gradual build up of constant character development, who I’ve had to see in various situations and circumstances before I’ve grown to care about them. This show did it in less than 24 hours. Maybe that says something about me more than the writing or acting but I still don’t think it’s an easy job to create so many characters with actual dimensions who feel like human beings. Also. I can’t count how many times I cried while watching this. It does get really sad at parts so I know I’m not a total emotional mess (maybe). But it was because I’m emotionally invested in these people and the way they talk to each other is very real. So, watching them argue makes me feel like I’m in the room with them and watching them get upset breaks my heart. It’s not so easy to mention other things I’ve watched that have had me hiding behind my hands one minute and then bawling my eyes out the next.

In conclusion I completely recommend The Haunting of Hill House to those who want to experience a brilliant new show on Netflix even if there’s still a million other things to watch. Only if you’re okay with having the life frightened out of you a few times and not wanting to turn off the light when you go to sleep incase a ghosty comes to visit you in the night. But you can look forward to watching a refreshingly good series with a very interesting family and house with some creepy history. Apart from that let me know if you’ve already seen the show or if you’re planning to after my very non descriptive review.

ttyl Jess/x

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