Review: “The Haunting of Hill House” delivers on scares and stories

By: Katy Kouvaris

Not a fan of horror stories, you are not alone. But for the recently release Netflix series, “The Haunting of Hill House”, you might want to make an exception. Even the master of horror, Stephen King, took to Twitter proclaiming the series as “close to a work of genius, really.” So if you are at all tempted to push your fright aside, this is the series for you.

The series is based on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel “The Haunting of Hill House.” Netflix was not the first to take the story to the screen. In 1963 and 1999, two films were released that told this ghost story about a mansion infested by paranormal activity.

 In early October, Netflix released the 10-episode series created by filmmaker Mike Flanagan. The story follows a couple and their five children who move into Hill House in the hopes of renovating the house for resale. Their time in Hill House is marked by terrifying paranormal activity that dares the audience not to cover their eyes. While their time in Hill House ends in tragedy, it is the hauntings that follow the family beyond the house that are equally horrific. 26 years later, the children, now damaged adults – are reunited with their estranged father in the hopes of making sense of their experiences in Hill House.

As a tribute to Shirley Jackson’s novel, the film starts with a reading of the novel’s first paragraph by the now adult son, Steven Crain. What makes this series so intriguing is the way the filmmaker teases the audience with bits and pieces of the story’s tale. Through the masterful use of flashbacks, the audience is brought to the edge of “figuring it out”, only to be teased with further discovery (and fright). Besides the wonderful “human” casting, Hill House itself becomes a character that the audience comes to respect, for its beauty, as well as fear, for its secrets. Unlike many horror films, this series explores some rather serious themes such as anxiety, depression and drug abuse.

If you have ever watched the NBC drama “This is Us” – this series is a scarier version. Both series explore the grief surrounding the death of a parent. “Hill House” uses actual ghosts to portray the haunting impact of parental loss on a family. The Crain family never spoke about their experiences which resulted in a family torn apart for decades.

Now you may say this review lacks a lot of plot detail, there is a reason – there are too many particulars that would ruin your journey to the twisted conclusion. What is nice about this series, is that you can watch an episode, chase it down with a comedy, and then come back for more!

So on one of these cold, dark autumn nights, grab a brave friend and a cozy blanket (to keep warm and cover your eyes if needed) and take a chance on this horrifyingly, yet terrific series.

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