This is more than a story about a haunted house.
That’s what I thought when I first started the show. I only watched the trailer once and really didn’t plan on watching it at first. I don’t know what caused me to start it today, and I figured I’d just watch the first episode and review that…
And here I am with a full season review if that answers the question.
The story is told through the present and past as the Crain family experiences the strangeness of Hill House and the aftermath of one tragic night that ended with more questions as to what actually happened to their family during their short stay.
In the past, Olivia and Hugh Crain, as well as their kids Steve, Shirley, Theo, Luke, and Nellie, moved into the Hill House to flip and resell it within a few months. Everything starts out small (as most haunted locations do) like Nellie seeing the Bent-Neck Lady (who is how she sounds) over her bed at night or hearing strange noises. Also, no one in the nearby town goes near the house and the house staff refuses to be there after dark.
In the present, each of the children is living their day-to-day lives with their own jobs/problems, when Nellie starts calling her siblings for help. At the end of the first episode we find out WHAT happened to Nellie, but don’t get the whole story until later on in the series.
Pandas Don’t Like Macaroni
Despite the argument over if anyone is actually seeing ghosts or hallucinations, this is still a haunting. Steve is the biggest skeptic, refusing to believe and using his family’s stories and tragedies to write books. While in the house he didn’t witness as much activity as the others.
The women in the Crain family seem to carry a “sensitive” gene, making the house and the things in it more attracted to them. Shirley speaks in her sleep (it isn’t all nonsense), Nellie is sensitive in general, feeling things about the house, but Theo probably has it the worst as she can touch a person or thing and feel what they’re feeling/what happened there. Olivia is sensitive as well and sees people within the house.
Then there’s Luke, who in the present day is going to rehab for drugs, and based on what he dealt with as a kid, it’s not surprising.
Meanwhile, Hugh is pretty oblivious to it all, assuming Olivia is just dealing with migraines. It’s not until that night that he starts to realize what’s really going on in the house.
Ghosts are Wishes
One of my favorite things to do was look in the background of a scene and catch something lurking within the shadows or just out of frame. There’s clearly a haunting going on, but there’s so much more to the mental toll of it all and the trauma it’s caused.
The first five episodes take a closer look at each sibling: Steve’s life revolves around his writing and using people’s ghost stories in his books, Shirley and her funeral business mixed with family, Theo’s a psychologist by day and has fun with women at night, Luke is in and out of rehab for a heroin addiction, and Nellie…well at the start of the show Nellie is just getting by. I don’t want to say any more about Nellie’s life, but the Broken-Neck Lady doesn’t just go away after they leave the house.
Meanwhile, they have issues with their dad who won’t tell them the full truth of what happened that night.
There are plenty of plot twists throughout the season, but one big question gets answered at the very end: what is the Red Room? A red door no one has been able to unlock, but shadows are seen behind it.
Even though this show is about a haunting, there’s so much more to it like grief, loss, and trauma just to name a few. It takes an even bigger mental toll not only on the characters but the viewer. It is emotionally draining, which only means the characters are sympathetic and likable, even though some (Steve) can grate on your nerves at times.
There are some horror tropes within the show likes jump scares, bugs coming out of people’s mouths, and decomposing corpses, but some of the best scenes (for me) were when something was just lingering in the background, not doing anything or trying to scare, but just there.
I’ll admit, my arm hairs stood up.
It is ten episodes, so for some, it could get bogged down by some slower scenes and episodes, but I just saw it building the characters and giving more to them than their role within the 5 Stages of Grief (if you watched the show I recommend reading this.)
However, as someone who claims to be a big wimp of the horror genre, I highly enjoyed this show. I didn’t expect to watch the entire season in one day, but after the end of the first episode, it kept me going. The questions about Hill House, how it slowly caused the family to go into madness, and the truth about that night kept me watching, as well as the characters.
I highly recommend The Haunting of Hill House if you’re looking for a new show to watch.