Netflix strikes again with another hit “The Haunting of Hill House” (2018), based loosely on the Shirley Jackson book of the same name. The web streaming service is releasing more original content than ever before. After their big push for the ‘Summer of Love’ string of original romantic comedies, they have had tremendous success with this new horror adaptation as well for Halloween. Most Netflix originals are niche, and some barely scratch the surface of capturing the internet’s imagination; not so with “Hill House.” Within days of the entire series’ release, videos on YouTube and other platforms were uploaded to dissect the show’s ending and the various ghosts in the haunted house.
Reviews of the show have been overwhelmingly positive. The cast is particularly strong, led by Michael Huisman (“Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” and “Game of Thrones”) and Carla Gugino (“Watchmen” and “San Andreas”) who play the adult version of Steven Crain and the Crain’s matriarch respectively. This is not your typical horror series. There are ghosts, to be sure, and plenty of jump-scares, gore, and shocking content. However, the show’s tremendous success lies in the family drama aspect of its story.
The show closely follows the five Crain siblings during their stay at the evil Hill House and as adults trying to navigate their strained relationships with one another. A tragic event will lead the siblings back to the dreaded house, and they each operate under different understandings and recollections of their time there. Each new episode layers on previously known, and sometimes previously seen information, adding complexities that shape the characters and the plot. An assumption held in one episode can be drastically changed by the next. The narrative is character driven. The few real plot elements are mostly in flashback.
This show will not be everyone’s cup of tea. If you are expecting more horror than family dynamics, this show may not be to your liking. Some of the dialogue is emotional and long-winded, and the show relies more on the viewer’s knowledge and interest as the season goes on than it does on terrifying visuals. “Dysfunctional Family Grows More Dysfunctional After Stay in Haunted House” might be a more appropriate title. Nevertheless, as far as Netflix original series go, this one is particularly strong. Time can only tell if it will continue to hold viewers’ imaginations, or if it will go the way of the Dodo, as Netflix specials like “Orange is the New Black” and “Maniac” can attest. If you are low on fresh ‘binge-worthy’ content, this show may just the thing to watch this weekend, as the autumn nights grow longer.