WASHINGTON: Just in time for Halloween, America’s favorite streaming video service offers Halloween fans a 10-episode Netflix Original miniseries. This spooky new Netflix series is based on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 Gothic horror novel, The Haunting of Hill House, which first appeared in movie form back in 1963. This modern interpretation centers on a house flip gone seriously wrong.
Ever run in to do-it-yourself-troubles?
If you think about it, do-it-yourself home projects can come with a downside. For example, a Virginia woman claimed that after a kitchen remodel, some preternatural prankster constantly locked her son in the basement. This continued even after unlocking that door and hiding the key.
According to Taylor Leonard at “The Ghost Diaries,”
“Oftentimes the reason a spirit is in a house in the first place is because it’s under the impression it’s still alive and owns the property. Therefore, when the living begin making changes, the ghost feels violated, upset and ultimately infuriated.”
In the case of Netflix’ Hill House, Mother Olivia Crain (Carla Gugino) intends to spend a summer renovating a spooky mansion and then put it on the market for a big payoff. All that cash will go toward the purchase of the her family’s new “forever home.”
But Hill House is a forever home of a different sort. And it has a way of changing the best made plans of those who dwell within its walls.
And so we begin “The Haunting of Hill House,” Netflix Original style
Subsequent hauntings include one by a “bent-neck lady” and another by a bizarrely tall man in a gray coat, bowler hat and cane, who levitates twelve inches off the floor. These are bad enough. But even worse is how often the parents dismiss or make light of their kid’s terrors.
This is understandable, considering how often the pair walks past the home’s many life-sized statues of Grecian women, but fails to notice how often their marble heads shift positions.
Dad Hugh Crain (Henry Thomas and Timothy Hutton) is quick to tell his children their frightening visions are the “spillover” from their dreams. He assures them if the visions are real, he will “chase them away.”
But dad will find that promise impossible to keep the night he gathers up his brood and orders them to run to the car. Oh, and don’t bother about mommy. He’ll come back for her once the kids are locked safely behind the door of a nearby motel.
He later returns to that hotel drenched in blood. The local police understandably anxious to question him concerning the death of his missus, the details of which he never shares with his children.
Like father, like son?
Son Steve (Paxton Singleton and Michiel Huisman) doesn’t recall seeing specters during his summer at Hill House. On his last night in the home, his father carried him from his room, demanding he not open his eyes “no matter what you hear.”
And so, Steve grows into a skeptic on all things supernatural. But hr profits nicely writing books based on terrifying ghost stories, especially those told by his siblings.
Steve will later admit to his father that he’s seen strange visions more recently. Visions he chalks up to madness.
“The whole f–king family is on the verge of a breakdown. Seeing things that aren’t there. Hearing things that aren’t there… It’s not the house. There’s something wrong with our goddamn brains.”
Viewing the otherworldly through adult eyes
What sets this ghost story apart from others his how its central plot centers mostly on the children’s adult struggles, triumphs and tragedies. Sibling rivalries are interrupted when the residual echoes of the past collide with the present at inopportune moments, transporting them back to childhood and Hill House.
Nell Crain (Violet McGraw and Victoria Pedretti), the first to confront a supernatural inhabitant of Hill House at age six, continues grappling with that spirit as an adult.
Hoping it’s all in her head, and trying to deal with what she sees during terrifying episodes of sleep paralysis, Nell seeks help from psychologist Dr. Montague.
“The problem is that you haven’t confronted your past,” Dr. Montague tells Nell.
“Every time we talk about your mother or your childhood or your symptoms… it always comes back to one thing. The house. How can a house – just a collection of bricks, mortar, wood and glass – have that much power over people?”
“You’ve never been there,” says Nell.
“Well, that’s true, but neither have you. Not for a long, long time. And I think that if you were to look at it today, after all these years, empty in the woods, you’d find it’s not a monster. It’s barely even a house. It’s a carcass.”
That, of course, is bad advice.
Hold ’em? Or fold ’em? Depends on the ghost
There are some things you should never confront. Especially when the specter in question possesses an air of familiarity, a bent neck, and holds the key to your future… locked inside a room at Hill House.
As brother Steve recalls of his long-ago summer home,
“It was a house without kindness. Never meant to be lived in. Not a fit place for people or for love or for hope.”
This outstanding retelling of The Haunting of Hill House is currently streaming on Netflix. Trick or treat?
— Headline image: Splash screen from The Haunting of Hill House, a Netflix Original production.