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.