Flashing between past and present, a fractured family confronts haunting memories of their old home and the terrifying events that drove them from it.
While Netflix has been getting increasingly prolific with its original feature-length films, it has been along the lines of quantity over quality. Where it really shines, is in its original episodic series (I guess television series is no longer a correct term). Being its own source of funding and distribution, they greenlight series that don't have to conform to the expected episode lengths (because there are no advertisers to cater to), and the content doesn't have to be watered down for a mainstream audience. It is this creative liberty that has no doubt made 'The Haunting of Hill House' one of the most engaging series in the last year.
The series is based loosely on a 1958 novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson and has been both adapted for the series and directed by Mike Flanagan, a rather competent up-and-coming horror director (he has directed titles such as 'Oculus' and adaptations of Stephen King's 'Gerald's Game' and 'Doctor Sleep'). Flanagan's greatest asset, is his ability to flesh out his characters, developing them into multi-dimensional people that the audience can't help but feel emotionally invested in.
The structure of the series looks to be influenced by another Stephen King property, 'IT', with the episodes having a non-linear story that follows a group of adult siblings in this haunted house, while frequently jumping back in time to when they were all young children in that same house. While this is a horror, this isn't so much a survival horror. Seeing the future and past iterations of each sibling, we know they have survived, so the horror and tension come from the content of their character instead, focusing on the traumatic events that turned them from innocent children into damaged adults.
This use of psychological trauma over the usual generic physical threats allows more room for creativity and longevity in the series, creating immersive characters that the audience will feel genuine fear and concern for. The story is very well structured and easy to follow, despite having multiple threats and multiple protagonists, by focusing on a different sibling in each episode. It creates a very strong narrative direction--even though everything is non-linear--and makes it much easier to remember the personality traits of each individual character. Flanagan also utilises the different characters to add more perspectives to events we have already seen, filling in the blanks rather than getting repetitive.
The cinematography, colour grading, and musical score are amazing for horror, with one episode, in particular, having some incredibly dramatic, long tracking shots with the steady cam. The effects are well-executed, and the creature designs are truly eerie and unsettling. The psychological elements of the film constantly call into question whether what we are seeing is real or not, and the series teases the audience constantly inserting elements throughout each episode, often without referencing it at all.
There are many layers to this series, and it is so well-done. Admittedly, a few episodes do have some pacing issues, which seems unnecessary due to the amount of creative control Flanagan had on the project (they could have easily just reduced the length of an episode). As well, there are some rather large questions left unanswered, which is unfortunate as the series is complete; the next season will be completely different characters and story (not dissimilar to the 'American Horror Story' series where each season is independent).
Its flaws are few-and-far-between. This is a horror that draws you in and keeps your interest through well-written twists and turns in the story, and a very competent crew working on the look and sound of the series, highlighting the magnificent acting effort from the cast. If you know a horror fan that hasn't seen this yet, you need to introduce them to it.
Based on the classic chiller novel by Shirley Jackson, this tv series expands the story substantially with heightened scares and propels it into the modern age. There's no cheap jump scares (so don't worry, you won't have to turn the volume down to avoid loud noises!) but rather an increasing sense of dread, sure to strike a nerve. At heart it's a ghost story in haunted house, but there's so much more about families, memories, and how we hang onto the past (and how the past might cling on to us, with spectral fingers).
Beware though! This is not for the faint of heart. 10 hours can seem gruelling when you watch all the episodes back to back. Spoilers ahead to let you know what you're in for: there's bugs crawling out of people's mouths, the dead rising from slabs, spooky faces and mouths that melt - some really horrific imagery here. There is some great camera work that really brings these horrors closer to you between shots, almost like they creep up on the viewer. There's a scary pregnancy, and women who change from young and beautiful to terrifying crones in one shot. And a horrifying broken-necked ghost.
But at heart it's a psychological story, about the characters: from the father of the family to the children, who grow up and flashback to childhood as we discover their memories. As adults they are psychic detectives, a drug addict, a true-horror novelist, and a mortician's daughter. All these adults are broken in some way, and as they re-enter their childhood home to find that home isn't just where the heart is: it's where the bodies are buried and the ghosts reside.
Random listing from 'Entertainment'...
In Series Two, romance is in the air when Geraldine plays Cupid to Alice and Hugo, and then, when she least expects it, is struck by Cupid's Arrow herself. Meanwhile, the parishioners of Dibley delve into the murky world of the media by setting up their own radio station. Features the episodes: 'Engagement', 'Dibley Live', 'Celebrity Vicar' and 'Love And Marriage'.
All trademarks, images and copyrights on this site are owned by their respective companies.
KIWIreviews is an independent entity, part of the ePLURIBUS.nz Network. This is a free public forum presenting user opinions on selected products, and as such the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinion of KIWIreviews.co.nz and are protected under New Zealand law by the "Honest Opinion" clause of the Defamation Act of 1992. KIWIreviews accepts no liability for statements made on this site, under the assumption that they are the true and honest opinions of the individual posters. In most cases, prices and dates stated are approximate and should be considered as only guidelines.
"Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book."
Ronald Reagan (1911 - 2004)