THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE: THE 2018 NETFLIX TV SERIES. ©

THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE: THE TELEVISION SERIES. (2018) CREATED AND WRITTEN BY MIKE FLANAGAN. BASED ON THE BOOK BY SHIRLEY JACKSON.

STARRING CARLA GUGINO, TIMOTHY HUTTON, MICHIEL HUISMAN, ELIZABETH ANN REASER, OLIVER JACKSON-COHEN, KATE SIEGEL, VICTORIA PEDRETTI AND ANNABETH GISH.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Whatever walked there, walked alone…’

Wow. This ten-part series makes for excellent television drama, but I suppose we’d better start by saying that it’s not as good as the original film of Shirley Jackson’s superb horror novel; how could it be? But it’s pretty damn good television viewing, even though it wasn’t as scary as I’d been led to believe and there’s an awful lot of talking and repetition in it.

It’s a ghost story, told in a non-linear fashion, so a bit you see in one episode might not make sense at all until another episode repeats the thing and explains it to you. Yes, that might be annoying for some, but the plot is really well written and complex and, even though it seems to have a million things to keep track of and an equal number of loose ends to tie up, it doesn’t do a bad job at all of tying everything up in a nice big bow at the end.

Okay, so it’s the summer of 1992 and the Crain family- the parents, Hugh and Olivia, and their five sprogs Stephen, Shirley, Theodora and twins Luke and Nell, come to live in the titular Hill House to do to it what the Americans call ‘flipping,’ that is, they’re going to do it up a bit and sell it on to make a fortune. That’s the plan, anyway.

But Hill House is haunted to buggery, as we all very well know, and it isn’t long before the house begins to exert its evil supernatural pull over the family Crain. Little Luke has an ‘imaginary’ friend called Abigail, who comes out of the nearby woods to play with him.

He is also haunted by a terrifyingly tall man with a walking stick, who floats a good twelve inches above the ground. His twin, Nell, is tormented by visitations from a scary-sounding someone she calls ‘the Bent-Neck Lady.

Theodora learns that she has a ‘psychic’ touch: if she touches something or someone, she can derive psychic information from it. She takes to wearing gloves every day, however, to prevent this from happening. Well, not everything she learns is necessarily welcome information, so you can’t really blame her, can you?

Dad is severely disturbed by the sounds of scraping, banging and tapping he hears in the basement he’s trying to de-mould, and as for Mom…! Mom probably has a sign tattooed across her forehead that only ghosts can see, a sign saying: ‘Haunt me, please!’

She’s a drippy, hippy-dippy spiritual type to begin with, gliding through the rooms in a succession of fabulous long nighties and robes, with her long dark hair streaming out behind her, but when the house starts to impact on her already fragile-seeming emotional state, she becomes a million times flightier.

She sees dead people and chats away to them as if they’re real, and she’s extremely susceptible to the ghosts’ warped mind games, being highly suggestible when they plant ideas of evil-doing in her increasingly damaged mind.

Something happens in the house in 1992 that sees the family (well, nearly all the family) fleeing for their lives, like the family in THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. The story moves back-and-forth over the ten episodes between the past and the present, and it won’t be until the very last few frames in the very last episode that we discover just what happened in that cursed house that fateful summer.

The Crain siblings are very messed-up adults. It’s pretty obvious that their stay in Hill House has impacted upon them big-time in different ways. One is a funeral director and a control freak. One is a heroin addict. Another is a child psychologist, responsible for working out if children have been sexually or otherwise abused. Her job makes her miserable. It’s a good group so far, isn’t it?

Another of the siblings is a flaky mess whom everyone in the family feels is a suicide waiting to happen, and yet another writes books about hauntings in general and Hill House in particular, books that get their entire family’s back up. I told you it was a good group…!

The siblings haven’t had any answers from their parents, in particular from their father, regarding what exactly happened in Hill House to tear the family apart that summer. Now, their lives are so messed-up and mixed-up that they’re going to need some answers, whether their parents want to give them these answers or not. Why not start by asking what was behind the locked door of the Red Room, for which they never had a key when they lived there…?

There are definitely references in the series to the original book by Shirley Jackson. Two of the sisters are called Theodora and Nell, there’s writing on the wall and banging on the doors, and the weird caretaker couple, the Dudleys, won’t stay on in the house in the night, in the dark, when it’s night, after dark, lol.

Some of the scares are extremely effective; others less so. I’d definitely recommend this Netflix series. It’s good writing and good acting; it’s a bit annoying and confusing in places, full of dreams and fantasies and with all the females in it sporting identical hairstyles, but it’s mostly good scary fun that puts me very much in mind of Stephen King’s THE SHINING.

I believe that Stephen King, master of horror and a huge fan of Shirley Jackson’s book, gives THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, the series, his seal of approval. It has mine too, for what it’s worth, so go forth and watch it and enjoy it, and just make sure the Bent-Neck Lady doesn’t find you alone in the house, in the night, in the dark…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

HAUNTED: THE FERRYMAN (1974) AND POOR GIRL (1974). 2 GHOSTLY DRAMAS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Haunted-The-Ferryman-Poor-Girl-Brett-1974-2012

HAUNTED: TWO TALES OF THE SUPERNATURAL: THE FERRYMAN BY KINGSLEY AMIS (1974) AND POOR GIRL BY ELIZABETH TAYLOR (1974).

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Both dramas reviewed here originally aired over the Christmas period of 1974, each fulfilling quite nicely the role of ‘a ghost story for Christmas.’ Both are beautifully shot and acted, with an ethereal, otherworldly look about them that lends itself rather marvellously to the supernatural themes.

THE FERRYMAN stars a ridiculously young-looking and handsome Jeremy Brett, probably best known for playing Sherlock Holmes alongside Edward Hardwicke’s Dr. Watson in the brilliant ’80s television adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous stories. Remember the great theme tune and the opening credits sequence?I certainly do.

He plays Sheridan Owen, an egotistical and narcissistic horror author whose book THE FERRYMAN has become an unexpected bestselling hit. After doing the rounds of the launch parties and the bookshops for often tedious book-signing sessions, he escapes for a weekend to the countryside with his attractive wife Alex, hoping to get away from all the hullaballoo.

It looks like all Owen’s succeeded in doing, however, is in bringing the dratted book with him even as far as The Ferryman’s Rest, the coincidentally-named guest-house in which he and Alex seek shelter during a dreadful downpour.

Owen quickly notices more strange coincidences. The maitre’d at the guest-house has the same surname as the maitre’d in Owen’s novel, but not the same Christian name. The barman has the same Christian name as Owen’s fictional barman, but not the same surname. Everything is just a little bit unsettling and off-kilter, in this out-of-the-way guest-house with no other visitors barring Sheridan Owen and his wife…

When the owner of the hotel turns out to have both the same name as Owen’s novel’s murderer, and also a beautiful young acting student daughter called Jill who is exactly how Owen imagined his lovely heroine to look, Owen starts to wonder exactly how far life is planning to go on imitating art. Knowing how his book ends, Owen, who has never before believed in ghosts even though he’s penned a supernatural bestselling book, decides to stay up when night-time falls and keep a solitary watch…

The scenes at the guest-house are bathed in a shimmery, iridescent colour that gives everything an unreal or ghostly look. Acclaimed actress Lesley Dunlop looks absolutely stunning as the gorgeous daughter Jill; what a beauty she was in her day! She could even have been a Hammer girl, she was so easy on the eye. I love posh-voiced Geoffrey Chater as her dad, the coincidentally named Miles Attingham, and the tale of terror ends with a decidedly delicious ghostly twist…

POOR GIRL, set in Edwardian times, sees an attractive young woman called Florence Chasty enter the rich Wilson household in the countryside as governess to the nine-year-old son of the house, Hilary.

He’s a precocious little spoiled brat who is, technically speaking, already too old for a governess. To see her attempting to teach him equations, extremely hard sums which it requires a male mind to properly understand and inculcate, is a pitiful sight indeed.

Why is this little master not by now enduring his baptism of fire on the playing-fields of Eton, might one enquire, fagging for a prefect who blisters his rear end enthusiastically with a length of bamboo whilst enjoying a spot of buggery over the hot buttered toast in front of the fire of a wintry evening?

I’m not saying I approve of this barbaric and horrifically abusive system, mind, which traumatised children for life, but we all know what these English public schools were like, leaving their poor troubled graduates in need of a Cynthia Payne type to fulfil the sadomasochistic fantasies instilled in them in school!

Hilary straightaway falls in love, of course, with Miss Chasty, whose heavy brown coil of hair at the nape of her delicate neck looks too heavy for her little head to support. Oliver Wilson, the handsome, still young master of the house, Hilary’s father, can’t keep his eyes off Florence, either. She could have her pick of father and son, uncomfortable as that sounds, were it not for the mistress of the house…

Angela Thorne is superb as the coldly genteel, restrained Mrs. Louise Wilson, who dismisses Florence as the ‘common shopgirl’ type almost from the beginning. It’s quite unpleasant to see how far above the peasant class Mrs. Wilson holds herself, simply because she has a few shillings more than most people.

Florence is quite a respectable young lady, with a loving father still living at home, and not at all the orphaned and utterly penniless Jane Eyre type of governess, but to the snobbish and horribly prejudiced Mrs. Wilson, she’s in quite ‘the wrong class’ altogether.

The haunting in POOR GIRL is very subtle, consisting of a few flash-forwards experienced by Florence of a man, who turns out to be the grown-up Hilary, and a woman, living in the house in the 1920s, wearing strange clothes and sporting strange hairstyles and behaving in an alien manner to the reserved, Edwardian-era Florence.

Florence very subtly changes, too, as she becomes less respectful and eager-to-please towards Mrs. Wilson, and begins to act more like her rival in love rather than an obsequious underling. Florence is straying into dangerous territory. I daresay she’s not the first young woman who thought she could usurp another woman’s place by virtue of her firm white body and lush, obliging lips.

Mrs. Wilson is on the ball, however, and very watchful of her husband who, as she is very well aware, has strayed with pretty young servants and employees before. It won’t be long at all, therefore, before Mrs. Wilson thinks to look in the summerhouse window…

These two ‘plays,’ as the blurb on the DVD box describes them, were made by and for Granada Television. They must have been compulsive viewing when they were first aired over the festive season of 1974. I love that some of the really brilliant television dramas and serials from that era are now available on DVD. I never thought I’d be saying this, dreadful technophobe that I am, but three cheers for the age of technology…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com