Hill House is a home with a troubled history. It has been the scene of suicides and madness, lawsuits and murders. It has a lingering, paranormal spirit that preys on its new owners. It’s the perfect setting for a horror story.
Mike Flanagan, who previously helmed the hit shows Oculus and Gerald’s Game, created this supernatural chiller for Netflix. It’s loosely based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson and follows five siblings who live together in Hill House, which is haunted by their mother’s death.
The family members all have their own coping mechanisms for dealing with the trauma of their mom’s death. Luke, the youngest, has become a heroin addict; Steven, the oldest, writes horror novels that profit from their family’s dark past; and matriarch Olivia has turned her fixation with death into a career as a mortician.
But all of them are susceptible to the specters that roam the house. Nell, for example, is constantly haunted by a “Bent-Neck Lady,” who hovers near her and calls her by her nickname.
These apparitions are hidden in episodes as eerie Easter eggs, and they often appear as a jump scare when no one’s watching. They’re not the most terrifying or frightening creatures you’ll ever see in a series, but they do add to the show’s sense of mystery and unease.
When Nell returns to the house for the first time after her mother’s death, she is greeted by an apparition of her mother scrawling in red chalk on a wall. It’s a poignant connection between the Crain family’s shared mental disorder and their mother’s ghostly presence.
Eleanor, another member of the Crain family, also has a ghostly encounter at Hill House. She’s rootless after her mother’s death, and she spends her summer at the house as an assistant to Dr. Montague, a man who is interested in paranormal research and believes that Hill House is haunted.
Like many of the characters in this twisted story, Eleanor’s haunting is rooted in her past and her mother’s death. As a child, she was subjected to repeated visits from the “Bent-Neck Lady.” She later married Arthur Vance, a sleep technologist who was also haunted by the same figure.
It’s this experience that drives her to seek out a solution. She eventually goes to a psychic and learns that the Bent-Neck Lady has returned and is tormenting her. She is also plagued by a recurring dream in which she sees her mother and her husband dancing, but the sight doesn’t appear to be real.
In the end, she is able to convince her husband to help her get rid of the “Bent-Neck Lady” and find the solution to their family’s problems. But it’s a long road ahead for her to make amends with her sisters and to let go of her own trauma.
The Haunting of Hill House is a horror series that is as much about the characters as it is about its creepy setting. It is the type of show that will leave you with a slew of questions about the supernatural beings lurking in the Crain household, and it’s an excellent example of how to tell a horror story in a way that’s accessible for all viewers, even those without a background in haunted houses or fright films.