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The Terror Comeback

The Terror Comeback: The Haunting of Hill House Review

‘The Haunting of Hill House’ Unravels the Terrifying Beauty of Grief, Addiction, and Redemption.

The Haunting of Hill House Review

In this column, Zofia Wijaszka reviews forgotten, underrated, and “hidden gems” horror films that deserve a new audience’s attention and post-watch conversation. The Terror Comeback’s goal is to celebrate the horror genre, both the genre in the cinema and on television.

The Haunting of Hill House Review: One of the Most Complex, Heart-shattering Netflix Original Series Discoursing Grief, Addiction, and Healing

While bestowing upon us a story about the Crain family, [Flanagan] also touches upon the matters of grief, addiction, and healing; all in the horror setting.

There are moments in life when you realize how fragile life is and how imminent and sudden death can be. These thoughts are terrifying so why not create something that plays on that fear and add horror components to it? Mike Flanagan, the creator of Doctor Sleep, or Hush, understood this assignment back in 2017, creating a show titled The Haunting of Hill House. While bestowing upon us a story about the Crain family, the director also touches upon the matters of grief, addiction, and healing; all in the horror setting. 

The modern retelling of Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name follows five siblings: Steve (Paxton Singleton), Shirley (Lulu Wilson), Theo (McKenna Grace), Elenore, aka Nell (Violet McGraw), and her twin, Luke (Julian Hilliard), whose parents, Olivia (Carla Gugino) and Hugh (Henry Thomas), are house flippers. Forced to temporarily relocate to the titular Hill House, it would become the country’s most well-known haunted location. The siblings, now adults (played by Michael Huisman, Elizabeth Reaser, Kate Siegel, Victoria Pedretti, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen), must come together yet again in the face of disaster and confront the ghosts of their past, including their rarely-seen father (in the adult role, Timothy Hutton). Some of the ghosts of the old place remain in their minds, while others continue to roam the now-abandoned Hill House.

Though understanding the show is essential, the summary only scratches the surface of Flanagan’s multifaceted, layered, and disturbing series. The Haunting of Hill House and its narrative exist on two distinct planes: past and present. From episode to episode, we learn about the Crain siblings as they were and how the Hill House events impacted them as adults. In the end, Flanagan provides us with more than just the literal tale — a story about siblings who stray away after a tragedy but must now come together to say goodbye to one of them. The show also sparks conversation about addiction through the story of adult Luke. Not only that, but the Netflix Original raises awareness about the severity of sleep paralysis and how it affects one’s psyche. Finally, it addresses mental disease and its often genetic characteristics. Flanagan utilizes Gugino’s character as an example to demonstrate how it may passed down through generations and how disastrous it can be.

Each performance in The Haunting of Hill House is meticulously crafted and masterfully performed by the younger cast or the adult cast ensemble. Gugino’s portrayal is particularly tear-jerking, and I can assure you that her character will leave an indelible impact on your heart and mind. Perdretti doesn’t fall far behind; her role, Elenore, is utterly impressive. The actor known for You or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood delivers one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, contributing to the creation of Nell’s story, her acute sleep paralysis, and the inevitable, devastating conclusion. Perdetti’s acting is superb and beyond chilling, especially in one of the final sequences, when her character visits the family for the last time. It’s even more astounding when you consider it’s her first major endeavor. The Haunting of Hill House perfectly exemplifies Pedretti’s aptitude for the horror genre.

Whether it’s Grace, Wilson, or Reaser and Jackson-Cohen, each presented character is unforgettable. The latter, particularly, delivers a gratifying performance as adult Luke and Nell’s twin. In duo with Pedretti’s Nell, you can discern their bond as closest Crain siblings. The actor of The Invisible Man outdoes himself by giving us insight into Luke and his struggle with addiction. Last but certainly not least, Thomas, as younger Hugh, is thoroughly harrowing, portraying a father and a husband who just wants his family safe.

There are ten episodes, each of which feels thoughtful, perturbing, and challenging. Flanagan spends his time developing the show’s characters, and he does so masterfully. As a result, the viewer is treated to a diverse cast of complicated personalities, each with their reasons for being who they are in adulthood. Following the heartbreaking last episode, Flanagan ensures that we are not only afraid of the ghosts of Hill House, but also completely horrified by the destiny of some of the characters. Another noteworthy component of The Haunting of Hill House is The Newton Brothers’ melancholic soundtrack. Each music bit is remarkable and unique to the show. 

One thing is certain: The Haunting of Hill House is one of the best contemporary series, not just in the horror genre, but on television in general. The show’s sophisticated premise and thought-provoking, memorable moments make it as effective today as it was when it first premiered a few years ago. I recommend revisiting the show sometime after the first viewing. I assure you that you’ll discover something new that will affect and break your heart yet again.

Grade: A+

The Haunting of Hill House is streaming on Netflix.

The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House

The Crains, a fractured family, confront haunting memories of their old home and the terrifying events that drove them from it.

Release Date: October 10, 2018

Director: Mike Flanagan

Cast: Michiel Huisman , Elizabeth Reaser , Kate Siegel

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