The Haunting of Hill House – Review
Greetings my Movie Ghouls!
Netflix are amazing. Yes, they take £8.99 from my bank account every month for something my kids use more than me. They remove a film from UK Netflix and have it on US Netflix, just as I was about to watch it. But it is still amazing. They have documentaries, Movies, and TV shows all part of their Netflix Originals. The likes of Making a murderer, Gerald’s Game, and most recently The Haunting of Hill House.
As you may know, we’re on the Countdown to Halloween; we have been watching one horror movie a night throughout the month of October. You can find the articles here. But, I and my wife wanted more.
Last year we watched The Haunting as part of our Halloween Countdown and this year Netflix have brought us a 10 episode reimagining of the classic movie and book.
Unfortunately, as of writing, I am only half way through having binge-watched four episodes on Saturday, and only one on Sunday. To be fair, Doctor Who was on! But what I can say is I have enjoyed this series immensely.
Back in 1999, there was a remake. An abysmal, CGI laden remake that starred Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Owen Wilson. It was as mentioned abysmal. It wasn’t scary, there was too much reliance on CGI, and it completely missed the point of what is scary. The new Netflix show is what this story deserves. Giving the story 10 episodes to flesh out the characters, and build the suspense.
One of the best scenes in the original is the hand holding scene. After about twenty minutes of trying to describe this scene, I will just add the scene here.
An almost perfect scene, it’s atmospheric, it’s frightening and it works. Now watch the ’99 remake. (Jump to 7 minutes)
Utter rubbish. It’s almost like they believed throwing in the words “Who was holding my hand” is as scary as the original. But, I digress.
Then the Netflix breathed new life into this scene. (I’m not linking it here, go watch it)
Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House.
What is good about the Netflix show is that they have thought about it. They have made changes to update the story enough to make it scary again. They have even made the handholding scene work again.
The Haunting of Hill House is very atmospheric, with the show revolving around the Crain family who lived in and were restoring Hill House. The series works by way of flowing flashbacks that all appear to be connected.
Each episode is done from a different family member’s perspective, with the episodes starting with the eldest and most sceptical person. By episode 5, we’ve gone through the five Crain siblings, who all believe and have experienced different things.
By doing this, it not only allows us to piece together the story but also means we only see what the central character sees. It also means that the further into the series you get, the more supernatural elements there are. The more sceptical the character the less scares there are.
There are a lot of scenes that are shown from different angles. The opening being something we see two or three times but from two or three different perspectives. It is a clever way of breathing life into the haunted house genre, and into the Haunting of Hill House story.
If you are a fan of the original film (I can’t comment on the book), you’ll see elements of it in the series. But this is a wholly new beast, telling a new story for the Netflix generation. The characters all mostly all appear from the original but with a subtle difference, they’re all one family. I think what makes this show work is the ensemble cast work hard to make their relationships believable.
For a television show based on an old film and book, it is possibly one of the scariest shows I’ve watched for a long time. Numerous times I’ve been sitting there with my wife, and I’ve turned to her to show her my goosebumps running up my arms. There are some great scares, and even though some things are predictable, a lot of the scares seem to be varied across the horror genre. Jump scares, slow creeping shots, fake out shots, and in a lot of the shots and scenes, there are ghosts hidden in the background. It’s extremely unnerving and adds to creating an oppressive and atmospheric series.
The majority of this review was based on the first five episodes. Those episodes were a great build up for a satisfactory payoff. So coming back to this after finishing the series you would think there would be some negatives. But I can honestly say that the final five episodes were as good as the first. The show goes out of its way to repeat scenes that we’d previously seen, all because each time they show it, the audience know something new.
It continues to build and build until the final episode where the setting is solely in the House. I’ve heard some talk of the series being slow, but I only saw this as a way of building tension.
One notable episode is episode 6, ‘Two Storms’. The first half of the series has built to bring the family back together and this episode works to throw the story further forward. Using constant moving shots you’ll believe that the episode is a full long take. For at least 18 minutes it is.
The scene in the funeral parlour is delivered so perfectly with the slow constant motion of the camera and the ensemble cast delivering excellent performances. This scene works to immerse us in the show and deliver some shocking scares.
One standout shot for me is when the father arrives at the funeral parlour. The camera slowly moves around the room showing the grown-up siblings. Once the camera goes behind the father we see the siblings as he sees them, all still children. It’s perfect and made me catch my breath.
If you find the first 5 episodes slow, then hopefully with the sixth episode you’ll be hooked, because this is outstanding. From a technical standpoint to the acting, everything that made this episode works hard to make it the standout of the show.
Each character is flawed due to the effect the house had on them as kids. The acting is superb and each problem the siblings faced are all different. They all work well and blend within the tone of the show.
The final episodes don’t slouch either. They bring the final threads of each storyline to a satisfying conclusion. They even throw in a nice, but heart-breaking twist near the end that I didn’t see coming.
As it stands, I can’t see how there could be a sequel to this show. Looking at it, I have to ask, do we need it? But inevitability will strike and success being 90% on Rotten Tomatoes will push a sequel through the gates. I’m not against a second series, but I do think this can stand by itself.
I can’t praise the show more. It delivers on story, on characters, on setting and most importantly it delivers the scares. This is the perfect show for the Countdown to Halloween, maybe even save it for a binge watch on the night itself.