Warning: this article may contain spoilers.
The Haunting of Hill House has taken the internet by storm, and has even garnered praise from the likes of Stephen King himself. Once you watch it, it’s easy to understand why; it’s a fantastic reinterpretation of Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel of the same name, and, in my opinion, a prime example of one of the advantages television has over movies: more time to work with.
The show starts off slowly; I’ll be honest, it took me a while to get into it. I even gave up on watching it after the first ten minutes failed to interest me. But I’m so glad I gave it a second chance.
The appeal of the show is that it mixes emotion and heart in alongside the fear and horror. Other elements work together to make it a fantastic example of storytelling – the actors are brilliant; the mythos of the house itself; the non-linear narrative. It’s a powerful examination of dealing with grief and trauma, and it’s just a damn good example of horror done right.
In a behind-the-scenes video, director Mike Flanagan said:
“In 90 minutes, you can get away with scaring people 3 or 4 times. For something like this, over ten hours, the rules are very different. I want to build a sense of tension, and to sustain it as long as possible.”
The show does that wonderfully – despite a huge reveal just halfway through the ten-episode season, there are still numerous unanswered questions that keep you invested in the show and its characters. Shows like this remind me why I prefer television over film; like with books, you have a longer period of time to work with, which can allow for more detailed storytelling. Hill House makes near-perfect use of its ten hours of screen time, taking advantage of the medium to delve into the mysteries of the house and its previous inhabitants.
If you’re anything like me, though, you probably didn’t want the show to end, which is why I was thrilled to find three short stories based on the Hill family over on Reddit, posted by a user called Count_To_Seven. The first one, ‘These Walls of Mine‘, was posted a month ago; the second, ‘The Boy at the Window‘ in late September; and the third, ‘Poppy Hill‘ not long before the show’s premiere on October 12th. These stories give more of the history of the house’s original inhabitants and help clear up some of the lingering questions left after finishing the show.
While you’re on Reddit, check out this post for a list of every single sneaky ghost hiding throughout the series.
Critical response to the show has been overwhelmingly positive; the master of horror himself, Stephen King, tweeted his approval last week, and the show currently has a rating of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Popular response to the show has also been overwhelmingly positive – a quick Twitter search shows that hundreds of people are just as consumed by the show as I am.
Despite some sensationalist headlines, I don’t think the show will make you vomit or faint unless you’re really, really sensitive (and in that case, maybe horror isn’t for you?), but it’s well worth watching, and maybe then watching again. That’s what I plan on doing this week, anyway. Come in, won’t you?