By Danielle Silvia
“The Haunting of Hill House” is certainly not a show for the faint of heart. The supernatural horror Netflix series, created by Mike Flanagan and released on Oct. 12, is loosely based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson.
The series follows the Crain family, a seemingly normal, loving family who is brought back home to the Hill House during the summer of 1992 to complete renovations and deal with a family tragedy. Hugh (Timothy Hutton) is the head of the family and is in charge of renovating and constructing the mansion. Meanwhile his wife Olivia (Carla Gugino), is designing and remodeling the mansion.
Originally planning to sell the Hill House and move to rebuild their own, the family is drawn back into the memories of their home and their lives together. While they planned on selling the Hill House and moving away, unexpected repairs make their stay much longer than initially intended, and strange, terrifying things begin to happen to each of the family members.
The series documents the family’s early days in the house and the lives of Olivia and Hugh’s five children. Their eldest is Steve (Michiel Huisman), who is an author. Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser) is a funeral director. Theodora (Kate Siegel) is a therapist. Luke (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is a recovering addict and has a twin sister, Nellie (Victoria Pedretti). Each of the children face different struggles and triumphs as they conquer adolescence and later adulthood.
As a child, Nellie was able to see the paranormal and experience two lives — she often floats between the worlds of the dead and the living. Throughout her childhood, no one except for Luke believes that she has this ability.
A family tragedy brings the siblings back together after being estranged throughout their adult lives, and the series bounces back and forth between the characters’ childhoods and their lives in the present day. Piece by piece, viewers begin to put together what happened to the family between the past and the present, and it seems that they have been deeply affected by the haunted house they grew up in.
What makes this show so diverse is the transition between the past and present. This series requires viewers to pay strict attention to who is speaking and what time period it is — otherwise, it is very easy to get confused.
Each episode features a different member of the family and his or her story. The house that they lived in became a famous haunted house later on, and some of the siblings take advantage of that public attention.
For instance, Steve was not as deeply affected by the house’s scares, but he published a novel that became quite popular much to his siblings’ dismay, since he did not truly experience much of what he wrote about and took advantage of their struggles.
The siblings, after enduring such a traumatizing childhood, are doing their best to grow up into well adjusted adults — though they are barely hanging by a thread. Currently a therapist, Theo struggles with coming out as a lesbian to her family, but also struggles deeply with her childhood trauma, the cause of which is hidden deep within the basement of the Hill House. Now trying to overcome substance abuse issues, Luke chases after his family after stealing from each of them multiple times in order to obtain money for drugs.
The captivating music and the gloomy, dark Hill House draws viewers into an eerie haunted world. The story portrays elements of surprise and a plot twist along the way that helps viewers put the past and present together and untangle the source of the family’s deep-seated psychological trauma.