(Sorry I haven't written in a while. We just started reopening my shop Cats Like Us last month, so it's been taking up a lot of my ...

The Haunting of Hill House (2018)

(Sorry I haven't written in a while. We just started reopening my shop Cats Like Us last month, so it's been taking up a lot of my time. You can always follow me on my Facebook page where I post a little more frequently.)

As usual I'm scrambling to catch up on life. Lol. I watched The Haunting of Hill House (2018) TV show that was made for Netflix. If you recall, I wrote a blog about Shirley Jackson's book of the same name a few years back. It's a great haunted house story and considered one of the best of the 20th century. It's had many incarnations and was due for an update. This new series is loosely based on the book. It has the same character names including one named Shirley, and some similar characteristics, but it's much more modern, slightly depressing, and dark.

The whole series tells the story of the Crain family and it's told in flashbacks revisiting memories of all the family members experiences in Hill House and back to the present. It's nice because you can really feel each perspective for every character and their relationships to each other. The family is made up of five siblings, Steve, Shirley, Theodora, and twins Nellie, and Luke, and a mom and dad. We see that their mom and dad rehab houses for resale, and as children they lived in Hill House. With all the kids and this giant house it definitely gives off Locke and Key vibes, but it's much more sinister.....at least to begin with.

***SPOILER ALERT***(super condensed version)

We find out as a child, Nellie sees "the bent neck lady" in her room that she shares with Luke. As an audience we kind of see her apparition in the dark background behind her. Keep an eye on the backgrounds because they tend show a lot of the ghosts. (Pretty cool.) We know that she sees dead people. If she has these terrible night terrors, why don't the parents let her sleep in their room?! Anyway, the show starts out very creepy a with a strong narrative.

We are introduced to the siblings as adults. Steve is a writer and writes ghost stories. He wrote The Haunting of Hill House, and his sister Shirley DID NOT approve. Shirley runs a funeral home with her husband, and Theodora lives in an adjacent cottage on the grounds, she's a child psychologist. Luke is in drug rehab. We don't know what Nellie does but we know she's married. Their dad lives in Florida and their mom died on the last day they all set foot in Hill House. Now the question is what happened that night? 

Nellie frantically calls all her siblings and her dad, and they seem to blow off her calls. Her dad is the one that takes it seriously and comes to town to console her. She says he sees the "bent neck lady" again. We briefly see Nellie as an adult dancing around Hill House. All the siblings have the same dream that she's in mysterious "the red room". A room they could never open the door to when they lived there...only they could.

This is a great set up to suck you into the series and it's only the first episode! 

Episode two I find very disturbing. We learn that the mom is an architect and designs houses. She's building a model of her "forever home", she has visions and "feels" things.

We flash back to young Shirley finding kittens in a toolshed at Hill House. She convinces her parents to keep them. They are pretty tiny and kittens need to be fed every few hours and kept warm. Shirley is just a little kid. She brings them into her room and overnight they die. THEY KEEP SHOWING A BOX OF DEAD KITTENS. It's completely awful.

Current day, the dad calls and we find out that Nellie is dead. Shirley decides that she needs to host Nellie's funeral. She begins the autopsy and it's pretty gory. While prepping her for the funeral Shirley is reminded of doing Nellie's makeup for her wedding and making sure Luke doesn't ruin Nellie's day by attending, he's had a long standing drug problem. Shirley has visions too.

Shirley has the forever home model in her house. We see the lights flash in the model at the end of this episode. I was hoping more would happen with this. It reminded me of Nightmare on Elm St. 3: Dream Warriors where the main character makes a replica of Nancy's house and the lights flash in it.

Nancy' house.

In episode three we get to see what Theodora remembers about Hill House. She was gifted with psychic abilities when she touches things and is reminded of the time Luke climbed into the dumb waiter and wanted to go for a ride. She pushes the button it gets stuck (of course) in the down position where there's a hidden basement. He sees a dead person crawling towards him. He's incredibly observant for a small boy and notices a ladder in the basement too. The parents come down, get the dumb waiter working and he tells Theodora about the ladder. She finds a hidden entrance to the secret basement that was used for bootlegging, but doesn't see any of the ghosts down there. 

Basement Zombie Ghost.

So little Luke has visions as a kid. He sees the ghosts that haunt Hill House, and an especially creepy one is a tall man with a hat and cane that floats. This reminded me of The Gentlemen from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We find out that Luke has a connection to his twin sister and even in death she supports him and gives him advice. 

Tall Man Ghost (William Hill)

We don't see Nellie alive too often, but there's an episode dedicated to her and her relationship to "the bent neck lady". Nellie suffers from sleep paralysis and goes to therapy. Her therapist is Dr. Jacoby from Twin Peaks...er I mean Dr. Montague. They are both played by Russ Tamblyn! It was fun to see him in a therapist role again. As a result of all her her childhood trauma, she is is drawn back to Hill House right after she voluntarily goes off her meds. We learn that she IS the bent neck lady and she hangs herself in Hill House.

Her death is the impetus to reunite all the family members. While at Shirley's funeral home there's a massive rain storm and the lights go out. (All the blues in episode 6 are very pretty.) It reminds the dad of the storm at Hill House and the night Nellie goes "missing", only she doesn't she just goes silent and invisible, a foreshadowing of the future perhaps? In this episode we also find out that all the kids think the dad his hiding things, and older brother Steve just thinks it's a group psychosis and that mental illness runs in the family. The dad does hide SOME things, but he's incredibly observant and is sensitive to people. He still hallucinates his dead wife is with him.

We learn about the Dudley's that are the caretakers of Hill House. They live off the property in a nearby cottage because they refuse to go to the house at night since they hear the cries of their dead baby girl there. We also learn about some of the ghosts that have died IN Hill House, many of them were insane. The ghosts have followed the Crane a family in a way. They are still in the minds of all of them, whether it's the banging on the walls, bent neck lady, tall man, etc. They are truly haunted by them. Luke decides to take matters into his own hands and go and burn down Hill House.

The second to last episode we find out what happened that last fateful night in Hill House. Their mom was having upsetting visions of the future, saw the ghosts in the house, and decided she needs to go on a vacation and visit her sister, only she doesn't go, and comes back to the house. The red room opens and their mom takes Luke, Nellie, and Luke's friend Abigail ~ also the daughter of the Dudley's~ in there for a poisonous tea party. The dad realizes what's going on but not before Abagail drinks the tea and dies. The ghost of Abagail then lives in the house, and the Dudley's promise to take care of the house to be close to their ghost children and their mom kills herself by jumping off the balcony. Then the dad frantically rushes to get all the kids out of the house. Honestly I was hoping it would be more exciting. Basically the ghosts/ red room got into mom's head and made her want to kill the kids.

The last episode seemed really out of place in my mind, I was waiting for more ghosts or something. 

Back to Luke going to burn down the house...the house won't start on fire. Their dad, Shirley, Theo, Steve all get taken over by the house and the red room. (Which becomes like the room of requirement in Harry Potter. Not very well explained.) They all get knocked out and see their worst nightmares, but Nellie brings them all back to reality. They realize that they need fix their strained relationships with each other and loved ones, and they all go back to their lives with their new knowledge and they live happily ever after. Dad ends up sacrificing himself and staying at Hill House to be with his ghost wife. Does he die there? We don't know.

Overall the show starts off slow but strong, the hidden ghosts are fun, but it ends badly for a horror series. It's as if they tried to stretch the story out and added some filler in. I really think it could have been 8 or 9 episodes. Overall I'd say it's a strong 3.5/ 4 marble statues out of 5.

Here's the trailer

There's also going to be a follow up-ish? series called The Haunting of Bly Manor, set to be released this week, October 9 with the same actors. I'll probably watch it.....eventually.