“Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone”.
Mike Flanagan’s spree at acing the horror genre continues with the exceptional, complex first season of ‘The Haunting of Hill House’. His glorious filmography comprises some of the most acclaimed horror films of the decade. Some notable features are ‘Oculus’, ‘Hush’, and ‘Gerald’s Game’. The recent Netflix release has deeply affected viewers, with some claiming frequent anxiety attacks and depression after watching it. The series is based on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel of the same name. The title refers to a book written by Steven Crain, a previous occupier of the Hill House, which he believes not to be haunted. Flanagan explores the thread between the family’s past and present through the unique narrative structure, weaving an intricate connection between the two.
Much like his previous collaborations, Flanagan’s keeps the style of his storytelling enrichingly slow-burning, mounting anticipation with immersive build-ups. Many commentators have praised the series, including the great Stephen King, who remarked, “I don’t usually care for this kind of revisionism, but this is great. Close to a work of genius, really. I think Shirley Jackson would approve, but who knows for sure”. The emphasis of the praise is concentrated on the wholesome style of the series and Flanagan’s defiance in not relinquishing artistic satisfaction for generic jump-scares. Even though there are moments of surprise, the very few jump-scares are worth their while. The little spurts are often used to bring together family members, often haunted by their deceased relatives.
Despite the overall solemn tone, Flanagan keeps proceedings vaguely light-hearted, creating moments of comedic genius even the Coens would be proud of. The comprehensive narrative shifts pensively from the family’s stay at the house and their present. It entails a wide spectrum of moods and emotions of the characters, offering enough to engage almost everyone. The piece will dissect the meaning of the plot and ending of the show, along with some other nuanced aspects people who’ve seen the series must know.
The plot of the show shifts between the family’s past at the Hill House and its lingering presence in their present. The Crain family comprises seven members; Olivia and Hugh, and their five children, Steven, Nellie, Shirley, Luke, and Theodora. Olivia is an architect, while Hugh is a “fixer”, dabbling in many fields such as plumbing, carpentry, etc. The two take up the assignment of the Hill House, a grandeur edifice standing since centuries, to fix it and sell it off. The Crain family moves in for the duration of the re-fixing of the house. Years later, they reunite, labeit in different circumstances and with a different task at hand.