The Haunting of Hill House


#1

I’ve been watching this Netflix series over the weekend, and after Danielle and Patrick both raved about it on Twitter, I figured a thread was in order.

The series is a (very, very loose) adaptation of the Shirley Jackson novel that is widely considered the scariest novel ever written. The 10-episode series follows the Craine family and the fallout of their short time at Hill House, alternating between the past, the very recent past, and the present.

Personally, I’m through six episodes, and while I find it a compelling psychological drama and mystery, I really haven’t found it scary to this point. It leans very heavily on the “mouth stretched beyond normal human anatomy” trope. (For some context, I am terrible with horror. I noped out of American Horror Story and Candle Cove right quick.) And while I’m interested to see how it plays out, I find the style of “90% foreshadowing/10%… shadowing” frustrating. It sets up The Big Mystery in the first episode, and after 6 episodes, I’m no closer to knowing what actually happened. I understand designing a show so that it rewards a re-watch, but this seems designed to require it.

But, I don’t want to sound too negative. More-spooky-than-scary is right up my alley, and this is the perfect Halloween fare to hold me over until The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Castlevania: Season 2.

Anyone else watching the show? What do you think? Mark your spoilers!


The Unexpected Realness of 'Haunting of Hill House,' a Drama With Ghosts
#2

Haven’t watched it yet but I am planning to get to it soon… I hope. The novel is incredible but I gotta say the 1963 film adaptation, The Haunting, is hands down one of the most unsettling movies I have ever seen. I love it.


#3

Watched the first episode last night, right before bed. Gotta say it got me a little spooked. Gonna try to be more tactical about it from now on. But it seems pretty nice.


#4

I started watching the first episode and realised I was alone in the house and how quiet it was…


#5

I’m a couple of episodes in and enjoying it - I like the how the family dynamics ground the spooky stuff. It does have a slick Hollywood horror feel so ymmv, but it’s more interesting and well made than The Conjuring, which I was bored stiff by.


#6

(copy pasted from my post in the horror rec thread)
A few impressions:

Immediately struck by how ambitious this is; long form is extremely uncommon in the horror genre, the narrative successfully transitions from the past and present, as well as changing the point of view of the same events to different characters in almost every episode. It also takes the risk of focusing much more on the human drama of the family instead of supernatural and action sequences.

The horror ranges from the subtle (discreet faces and changes in the environment of the house that aren’t telegraphed in the usual way) to the jump scares with scary ghost faces and loud music. Sometimes I found the jump scares to earned as part of the narrative, other times (but less frequently) they just seem to come out of nowhere.

Very long and frequent monologues. This is my only real complaint. The director makes a noticible use of characters going into long emotional soliloquies, the camera only focusing on them, occasionally cutting to other people listening. At first I was like, ok, this is strange but the director is going for something here, maybe emphasizing emotional moments? or building a sense of dread, a slow sense of a characters madness as they go on and on, like in movie like Kubrick’s Shining?

But as the series progresses the monologues happen more and more frequently, to the point of losing me. Like they are part of a different show, which up until about the 7th episode was amazing. Also this is harsh and I hesitate to say this but I don’t think some of the actors were up to the long emotional scenes entirely focused on them delivering these speeches.


#7

My wife and I started watching this and definitely feel spooked out by it. We just finished “The Bent Neck Lady” episode last night and while I kind of saw the twist (snap?) coming I still found it interesting that the house itself cuts across times. The jump scare at the vending machine also got both of us hard.


#8

I agree that the show isn’t an outright scare-fest, but I think that’s an actual benefit here. Stretching that kind of tension over ten hours seems like an impossible task, and I appreciate that Flanagan and company decided to ground this in character drama and then fill out the story with horror elements.

It’s more sad than scary, but it’s effective television because of that. Also the 6th episode is just such an achievement of writing and directing that it kind of justifies the whole affair.


#9

The tracking shot in episode 6 was amazingly intense, although it did have me trying to figure out the set design, which is maybe not where you want the audience’s head to be in that moment.

Going back to @sputnik’s comments on the cast; I do find the performances to be a mixed bag, even from the same actors at times. I’ve always thought Timothy Hutton is an underrated actor and Carla Gugino brings her singular mix of beauty and kindness, mystery and menace, but they’re both underutilised in the first half of the series. Henry Thomas is fine, but not really asked to do much heavy lifting so far.

The kids are consistently great: Nell and Theo especially, but the kid that plays Luke steals every scene he’s in. I can’t imagine a how a six-year-old plays in a horror story like this. I guess it’s just like playing make-believe?


#10

I can’t stop thinking about it. It reminds me of being alone in a still forest, fog hanging in the air. Smelling the trees, feeling the cool weight of the moisture in the air, appreciating the tranquility, but then my lizard brain creeps up and reminds me: you’re alone here. You don’t know what lies beyond the mist. Do you see movement back there? And suddenly I’m unsettled, but I can’t say why, and I just want to leave - now.

It has a knack for taking me by the hand and guiding me into the safety and familiarity of family drama, and just when I’ve forgotten, I realize it’s taking me just a little bit further, too far, into the unknown, towards the ghosts and shit.

Also, the acting is superb. I’ve been in love with Elizabeth Reaser since her performance on Easy (Easy is extremely good!!!), and she’s even stronger here as the unwilling anchor for this fucked up family. The show’s great!

Oh also I love that basically everyone I know is confounded by exactly how many siblings there are in this family. All the women I know who watch it are making fun of its “brunetteness” for not being able to identify who is who and…yeah I can’t keep tabs on these kids either. I guess that’s it’s one weakness: too many siblings


#11

I’ve only seen the first episode so far. At this point, there haven’t been a lot of “big scares,” so to speak, but I think it’s building a sense of dread that I find more interesting and effective than most individual scare moments can. For example, there’s a scene in the first episode where a girl is sleeping, and a face comes out of the background. You can see the outline of the face the entire time, but it doesn’t actually look like anything until it starts moving. This scene made me start watching in a different way - what else will be hidden in plain sight? I hope the rest of the show cashes in on this instilled paranoia. I like it pretty well so far.


#12

I agree with Sputnik. Some of the directorial decisions feel… not confusing but like they were aiming for something that didn’t quite match the show?

I get that much of the horror is embedded in the characters, but the director seems to love long monologues that aren’t visually punctuated. In fact the direction feels very stage/theatrical? In fact the 6th episode feels a lot like a play, which in a way seems to deflate the horror elements and the suspense. I always appreciate works of fiction that bend genre, but that episode especially feels like a family drama and as Sputnik said, feels like another show.

Which is too bad, because the cinematography itself is top notch. The production is amazing and high level. But the combination of writing and directing sometimes definitely feels off.


#13

To this day I’m still kind of in awe over HOW bad the 1999 version is.


#14

The less you know the better, I think, so I will just say:
Me and my partner enjoyed this show a lot and, for once,
the ending actually wrapped things up beautifully.
It does not require a “re-watch”.


#15

Controversial opinion: I kind of like the 1999 movie… it is, no denying it, total garbage but so over the top and poorly overdone that it feels a bit like one of Roger Corman’s Poe films. Even saying that is a little too generous. It just occupies a weird soft spot in my heart.


#16

I agree re: the 1999 film. Among Special Effects-Laden Late-90s-to-Early-00s Haunted House Movies – an esteemed genre that includes such classics as Thir13en Ghosts, The House on Haunted Hill, and Ghost ShipThe Haunting is definitely top, like, five-ish.

(It’s weird to think that at the same time Hollywood was producing these schlockfests, Korea and Japan were creating Ringu, Ju-on and Battle Royale. Which eventually devolved into Hollywood-style schlockfests themselves.)

That’s good to hear. I know there are lots of Easter Eggs (Matt Flanagan has tweeted out some “hidden ghosts” lists) but there was one thing in particular, Nell’s psychiatrist, that I didn’t think anything of at the time, and now two other characters have mentioned it, and it left me wondering if it’s one of those things where the second time you watch it, you can’t believe how the pieces were all in place.

I’m enjoying thinking about it so much, I almost don’t want to finish, but I’m also looking forward to watching through it again with a more attentive eye.


#17

OMG yeah I remember both of those went down so fast. The Ring books and movies and Battle Royale devolved into Hollywood-style schlockfests before any of the flicks were even officially available outside of Japan! :smiley:

Looking back at Special Effects Laden Late 90s to Early 00s Haunted House Movies, I think House on Haunted Hill and Ghost Ship might be my favorite. House on Haunted Hill especially because you can tell everyone’s having a blast with it. The Haunting just felt so, like, blah, and showed way too much way too early. It’s probably the closest of them to feeling like a made for TV flick with a way higher budget. Where a lot of good haunted house kind of flicks misdirect and disorient a person, it felt the most cynically made, like a Shock/Beyond the Door II or something.

Anyway we finally started watching the titular show of the thread, just a few episodes in but it’s pretty excellent so far. A lot of the issues I’ve heard people mention about it sounds like they stem from the one constant of every single Netflix series has which is that whatever number of episodes Netflix commissions for a season, they should have done one or two episodes less.


#18

Chiming in as well to say House on Haunted Hill legit rules in large part because it totally leans in to the source material and is straight-up a lot of fun.


#19

can anybody who has watched this tell me about the potentially upsetting content in it without spoiling it too much? just like general content warnings. i heard there are dead kittens. how violent is it? what is the drug use like? etc


#20

I’ve finished the series. It’s not particularly violent. But there is a ton of traumatic stuff here. The drug use is prominent but not explicit. If the mention of dead kittens is a turn off, than I would definitely give it a pass.

I’ll put warnings behind spoilers:

Explicit suicides

Child Death