The Haunting of Hill House


I would really love to hear thoughts from people who have read the book. I have been obsessed with Shirley Jackson since I first read We Have Always Lived In the Castle at age 16; she’s one of my favorite writers of all time.

So at first I was prepared to write this new series off as being similar to The Haunting (1999) - a bad adaptation just sort of vaguely capitalizing on a brand and losing a lot due to the trappings of modern horror, which relies much more on jumpscares than the kind of atmospheric dread that Jackson was a true master of. In that regard I really prefer the 1963 version.

But after listening to the latest Waypoints, I’m intrigued and thinking about watching it. It sounds like even though the show has jumpscares, it also has long stretches of that slowly building sinister atmosphere? And while The Haunting of Hill House (the book) is explicitly about people who are mostly not related, I wonder if the family drama owes anything to her other works like The Sundial and The Road Through the Wall?

In deviating from the letter of Jackson’s original, has the show succeeded in adapting the spirit for a modern audience? Or is it really best appreciated as an entirely distinct entity?


I haven’t read the book since high school (make your own guesses on how long that’s been) so I don’t remember a lot of specifics. The major difference is the book leaves it somewhat open to interpretation whether the house is truly haunted or whether it’s Eleanor that’s “haunted.” While there are parts of the show, especially early on, that may raise the question, they also make it clear up front that the spirits are real. I’m generally not a “stick to the source material” person, so that doesn’t bother me.

For a perspective of someone who thinks the changes betrayed the spirit (ba-dum-tssh) of the novel, Holly Green had some unkind words on Twitter, and she wrote them up at Paste today.


i hate that take.

i’m with you: who fuckin cares if the movie, show, or whatever is different from the source material? the adaptation is a standalone work. it doesn’t change the source material. especially in cases like this, where the adaptation is barely even that; more an ‘influenced by’ than a ‘based on’. yeah, shirley jackson kicks ass. this show, a totally different work, also kicks ass.

i love watching adaptations of things i’ve read. it’s interesting to spot the differences, see how some things were interpreted and expressed, see how others have changed. but it’s just that: interesting. It’s not necessary that it meets every (or any) preconceptions the source material has instilled in me. it allows for some craft analysis (ah, she did that instead of this - probably because it’s hard to show X on film), but using this knowledge as a framework into which the adaptation must fit is a great way to have no fun at the movies.


I’m somewhat more sympathetic to the idea that an adaptation betrays the themes of the originals, but even then, the Telltale Batman games totally upend the entire Thomas Wayne/origin mythos, and they’re way better for it.

Otherwise, yeah, judge them for how they work in context. I always think about two of the more controversial changes in Lord of the Rings. The ents needing to be tricked into fighting Saruman? Stupid. Not because it “betrays” the ents, but because the way it plays out makes absolutely no sense. A small group of elves deciding they care about the fate of Middle Earth and showing up at Helm’s Deep? Rad as all get-out, and one of the best moments in the entire trilogy.


I’m home sick today, kind of dozing and watching episode 8 when oh my god that jump scare in the car woke me right the hell up again. (The dog, too, who was on the bed with me…)


Leigh Alexander made a good point yesterday on Twitter.

lol imagine youre one of the greatest horror writers of all time and then the netflix adaptation of your work has a narrative wrapper that seems to weirdly imagines you as some genre serials dude

— Leigh Alexander (@leighalexander) October 17, 2018

We’ve reached the point in which TV shows have become like novels and audiences seem to like that kind of long form storytelling where episodes are like chapters. I do think this show is able to stand apart from the book but carry just enough nods to the book.

There are a lot of jump scares, but it does it all masterfully. Sometimes you think it’s building up to one and it just transitions to another shot - but the transition is enough to make you jump and sustain the tension constantly keeping you on edge until the real scare. Others have a good setup like they tease them early and then build on them. I’ve just finished the first three episodes but generally, I appreciate the way they manage to put in a lot of scares but always keep it grounded to the character - like this is what this character would see because this is what is on their mind, or this is what they would judge to be scary. At the moment the scares kind of help to build the characters and show how these characters perceive the world.

I’m hooked on this show at the moment. But man, it is not a good show to watch if you are alone in a house…


I really don’t care how close an adaptation is to the original as that way if I like one I can still enjoy checking out th other. I imagine adapting horror from novel to screen is difficult because a novel can use the reader’s imagination where as screen just has to either show or not show.

It took me till episode 3 to get hooked on the show as Theo is an awesome character. I can understand what Rob was talking about in Waypoints as the ghosts mainly work as metaphor for so long and I feel like we’ve had plenty of that in horror. I’ve just watched episode 6 and things just got real.


I’m not really a horror person and I got heavily spooked within the first 7 minutes of the first episode. :blush:


i liked this show a lot. reminds me of the babadook in that sorta The Real Monster Was Trauma All Along way. it’s definitely a little tonally confusing sometimes and the multiplicity of what the ghosts represent makes the narrative feel a little unresolved in a way which it doesn’t fully exploit, but i quite like that, on reflection; i think a lot about Steven saying “i never found a reason” (or words to that effect) in the first episode, in that it’s not trying to present a thesis on trauma as much as an exploration of it. if anything, the biggest weakness is that it constantly loops back to the house itself as the traumatic center of the story and presents everyone opposed to that as a heartless jackass (Steven especially) rather than letting the ambiguity breathe a bit.

good show. more sad than spooky. liked it.


Saw the sixth episode last night.

Wow. Just wow.


I finished the show on Sunday, and I really enjoyed it! Like many of you have already said, it’s a great family drama in a horror wrapper. The one great horror set piece from the show was the part in episode 4 with the floating ghost who propels himself with his cane. It was just so tense and understated, and never squandered all of its mood on a jump scare. I felt like I was holding my breath the whole time!

Technical spoilers, episode 6: I have to say I’m not as high on the oner episode (episode 6) as most people seem to be. There were a lot of great parts, especially in the dynamic spaces of the old house, but I can’t help but feel that they sacrificed a little to much on the alter of the long shot. The scene where everyone is in the foyer of the mortuary was particularly unreadable to the point that I was completely disengaged. The part where the camera circles the family on the floor of the old house made it impossible to tell who was talking. I just feel like they made decisions that made the episode harder to follow because it was technically impressive. You can take that with a grain of salt though, because I’m a bit of a long take skeptic. Don’t get me started on Spielberg!

Also, I thought I’d put a CW for sleep paralysis for anyone coming here to see if they should watch the show. The depictions of sleep paralysis in this show are very real and triggered my first episode in more than a decade.


I ended up watching the whole thing in one burst Saturday night; that’s (unfortunately) how I tend to watch these b-level shows, in one shot that starts around 8 or 9 pm and wraps up at sunup.

I gotta say, I’m a lot less high on this show than some people seem to be. I think the character dynamics are interesting, but I don’t feel like the show has the followthrough or nuance on most of its themes. This show’s maturity on mental illness, addiction, sexuality, and abuse lands closer to an ABC drama like The Good Doctor or This Is Us than it does to horror like The Shining or even The Babadook. And I think that’s…okay? Like, I definitely found the show compelling. But I think maybe with how little I liked the show’s protagonists in the first few episodes, I was hoping for a little more gonzo, a little more Mandy or Antichrist, a little more apocalypse than romance.

Hutton is incredible throughout. Can’t usher enough praise to him or to Henry Thomas, who plays an unsettling version of the same character. The children are great, as many have noted. And while I agree the one shot aspect of the present day stuff in episode 6 is a little muddled, what they do with it in the flashback is Just Fantastic.


My wife and I just finished it after a three or four day binge. I’m not a huge horror fan, but was surprisingly drawn to the show; This was some high-quality melodrama. The parts where the show dips into true “AHHHH!” horror, it works very well. The build up is always subtle enough to have you lower your guard right in time for the horror.

I actually enjoyed episode 6 quite a bit, mostly for technical reasons. I’m actually embarassed I didn’t notice the long take until I was about ten minutes into it… I’ve done a bit of theater, so I have a lot of respect for every actor in the scene knowing every movement & line, perfectly timed to the camera panning. I actually find it kind of funny knowing that behind the camera, all of these very serious melodrama actors are probably scrambling to their next location. (Seeing Steve dramatically storming out of the foyer in the background tickled me for some reason.)

That episode aside, I enjoyed how the show wrapped up pretty well. The individual character arcs were all pretty consistently interesting, and even the characters who may have grated eventually had some redeeming dialogue and quality acting. My wife mentioned how she can’t imagine how they’d do a second season, to which I replied “They’d better not…” - I appreciate a good contained story, and see no need for a sequel for anything here. I feel that they eventually do resolve a lot of the “mysteries” in a satisfying way, so for those of you thinking about falling off after a few episodes, I’d stick with it through the whole thing, I think you’ll be glad you did.


After dropping off for a bit because of baseball, I chugged the last four episodes Monday night. Some thoughts:

  • I like the way the hauntings play with time and space. Throw in a couple lines about quantum mechanics and it could’ve been a sci-fi show.

  • I was a little frustrated by the pacing early on, but I think it pays off in the end. A slow burn up to episode six, which just explodes, then episode seven brings it back down to highlight the continuing escalation of eight, nine and ten. Really well done.

Speaking of episode ten:

  • I enjoyed it overall, and I think the emotional payoffs were mostly well done, but a couple things really didn’t land for me.
  • I hate saying this, but the actress who plays Nell just didn’t have the chops to carry what she needed to. Her expressions were early-Daniel-Radcliffe bad at parts.
  • The stuff with the Dudleys. WTF. I’m pretty willing to suspend disbelief, and I’m not one to shout “PLOT HOLE,” but do they seriously expect me to believe that they never once mentioned the name of their daughter - who they adore and who the Crains obviously know about - to a single person? And that neither of them heard talk of Luke’s “imaginary” friend, who every single Crain family member knew about, talked about, and NAMED openly? And Abigail never mentioned who her mom and dad were? NOBODY knew who Abigail was? Give me a fucking break. This strains credulity well beyond the breaking point.
  • And that the conservative, Christian Dudleys, the only people who understand the house and are FUCKING TERRIFIED of it, will decide to cover up THEIR DAUGHTER’S MURDER because HER GHOST is there?? Will spend 25 years maintaining an evil house, during which time it sure as hell doesn’t seem like they visited poor Abigail a whole lot, so they can become ghosts themselves?! FFS, this is making me angry just thinking about it. The whole rest of the show has such immaculate storytelling and this stuff felt like it was shit out in half an hour.

Nevertheless, even though I thought it dropped the ball in a few places at the end, I thought it was really great overall. In contrast to American Horror Story’s “throw everything at the wall to see what sticks,” a solid family drama with some well done, restrained horror elements was very much appreciated.

PS - the tall man. Fuck. Only thing that really got me.


Totally agree with you on the Dudleys. It was one of the few things in the show that I didn’t care for. And it just seemed sort of…unnecessary, I guess. That scene where the old Dudleys come to the house to die was especially cringeworthy. If you want to be around your daughter so much that you refused to let the father destroy this bastion of evil, then why didn’t you just move into the house to be with her?

Also, re: the house…I get that the house was a metaphor for trauma and that in the end the family (and the Dudleys) sort of manage to overcome that trauma and turn it into a positive, but it makes for a very weird tonal shift in the final episode. The whole show revolves around the house being evil and horrific and incredibly dangerous to this family and Nell and Olivia are constantly portrayed as these tortured and lonely souls…only in the last episode to be like, “Hey we’re all together, it’s great, leave the house alone so we can live forever in bliss!” Which…like, does not feel like the most authentic depiction of how overcoming trauma really works. (It also feels kind of selfish…like let’s risk some other group of people in the future being tortured and “digested” by this place because we want to be together forever.)

I assume they’re planning to do a second season, so I’m interested to see where they’ll go with it. My guess is we move back in time to the Hill family, because after that feel-good ending it seems like they would struggle to go back to making the house spooky again. I am interested to see what their explanation is for the house’s evil nature.


Just seen the 8th episode. I should not have been eating soup at the time of that specific moment. I got covered.


I don’t remember exactly where I saw it (AV Club or io9, probably) but Mike Flanagan wants to do another season. To paraphrase, the story of the Crains is over and it would probably be The Haunting of Something Else.


My fiancee and I just finished the show last night. As most people have said here, it is more suspenseful and dreary than scary. We are both not horror people at all and really enjoyed it. I liked how it cut between timelines as it was a good way to cut the tension and/or teach us more about the character or house. Also the timeline always jumping could be connected to what Nelly said about time being like raindrops rather than a straight line. I found the twists and turns to make sense, and usually either my fiancee or I would figure them out just moments before the show explained them giving us a moment to go, “Ohhh wow this is actually this!” and then have the show explain it in more detail. There were also multiple times where we went back after one of us noticed something different in the shot. All in all it was really fun and suspenseful.

Now for a bit more spoilery talk. My fiancee and I still thought it could all be in their heads going into the final episodes. Each character had a pretty decent explanation as to why they would see a bent-neck lady, the Tall-Man, or any of the other ghosts. I found the end a bit odd though. The house is the evil place, but then it is kinda showed as a place to spend eternity with your love ones. It just felt off. It was kinda like Poppy was correct in a way in the ending. She says how the world outside is so evil and you don’t want to let your children out there to get hurt so just “wake them up”. It seemed like as soon as they were dead all their pain/suffering was over. Nell doesn’t have a broken neck, Olivia doesn’t have all her injuries from her fall(but does seem to have the same sort of thinking she had when everything went down, leaving me with some thoughts), and the other ghost seem to have no signs of their trauma they had in life and/or during their death. I think it would have kept with what was said about the house more if those characters had kept their signs of injury/trauma. Though Olivia’s mind state makes me think maybe the house slowly corrupts your mind or something like it did to her when she was alive. The only ghosts we hear talk are Poppy(said to be insane and seems to be the driving force in the house getting people to “eat”), Olivia (Is her thinking not reverted back to her pre-house thinking or was Steve right in that their mother had some sort of mental illness?), and Nell(not in the house long enough to start feeling the effects of being a ghost in the house maybe?) so it’s hard to see if Poppy and the other ghost still torment you once your dead. Ultimately I’m just left confused on what I’m supposed to think about the house and the ghosts in it. It seems pretty obvious that Poppy drove a bunch of the house’s eating, but how did it all start? Were the other ghosts trying to torment the Crains or just living there? What did the Tall-Man want with Luke?


Right to spoilers:

There was one other ghost that talked - the one who told Liv that Poppy was a liar.

I was not entirely sure whether Poppy was the source of the house’s evil or another victim who became predatory. If she’s the source, I could see how a bunch of happy family ghosts could counteract some of her presence.

From the first time we saw him, I thought the Tall Man (Mr. Hill if I picked up on that) just wanted to thank Luke for finding his hat. :grin:

Liv does say at one point to Nell that she sees the ghosts and that they don’t want to hurt them. I think that was true for most of them.


Thanks! I think I just needed to talk it out to get a better grasp on what I was feeling.


I think it’s true that the ghost don’t want to hurt them. That just makes me more confused on the house though. If it needs to “eat” how does it get more food/people if all but one ghost in it doesn’t want to cause any harm to the inhabitants?

The Poppy question is interesting. Mrs. Dudley said that she was insane. Was that because of the house or was she originally insane? We saw Olivia’s mental state degenerate when she was in the house. Could the same have happened to Poppy?

I know the creator already said the next season won’t deal with the Crains, which I’m excited for, but I do kinda wish that they would cover the Hills a bit. I don’t know that I would want a full series of it though. Ultimately I think it’s the right decision to move away from the Crains and tell a new story, but I can’t but help to wonder more about Hill House and its secrets.