The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix, 2018) Review

A chilling mystery haunts a family as they struggle with a terrifying past. The thing they want the most is only found in the place they least want to go. Eminently bingeable, Hill House is likely the best Netflix series of 2018.

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In 1992, the Crain family moved into a large Massachusetts house once belonging to the Hill Family to renovate and flip the house for a profit, and funding the development of Mrs. Olivia Crain’s dream “forever house.” But there are other inhabitants the Crains hadn’t planned on. But then something tragic befalls the family as Mr. Hugh Crain is forced to evacuate his 5 young children from Hill House in the middle of the night.

As the years pass, each of the Crain children is haunted by the events of Hill House, each in their own way. Their individual traumas follow them into adulthood as the Crains struggle through infertility, addiction, widowhood, infidelity, and isolation. Each of the 10 episodes in the series follows a different member of the Crain Family, switching between the respective characters’ childhoods at Hill House, and their adulthoods as far from Hill House as possible.

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While the narrative of Hill House is simply the retelling of the worst two days in the history of the Crain family as seen from 10 different perspectives, the stories are so well woven that it is not possible to stop watching. There are plenty of scares mixed in to each episode, but the scares largely come from the audience’s failure to understand the details of the workings of Hill House. Jump scares are thankfully reduced to one per episode, but the dread and terror more than make up for the lack of “boos”! Something bad is going to happen, and none of the characters is equipped to handle the ghastly threat.

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As far as performances, Carla Gugino does the best job among the adults, playing the troubled and spiraling Olivia Crain. Among the kids, the young twins are the most compelling and often most vulnerable. Otherwise, Hill House is doing the heavy lifting. It has more character and dynamism than all the cast combined.

Thematically, Hill House is about overcoming the worst parts of yourself. Each character spends the first half of their arc trying to hide and suppress their worst flaw, and in doing so, expose themselves to the tyranny of Hill House. It’s only after they open themselves up and confront their trauma with the family’s help that they have a chance of escaping the nightmare of Hill House. The raw and tragic truth of Hill House is that in this show, as in life, this process often takes casualties. But, to get the thing you want most, you have to risk venturing to the place you least want to go. The good news is, you don’t have to go alone.

Verdict: In a first viewing, Haunting of Hill House is terrifying. But it is also rich with triumph over tragedy. Upon a second viewing, there are tons of details that I missed the first time around. I hope there is a chance to explore more of Hill House.

4 Couch Cushions and a throw pillow!!!

4.5

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