Horror generally has a better track record in film than on television. Since the genre is often overlooked in a TV series format (ever since the glory days of The X-Files anyway), it has had some difficulty finding its footing in the mainstream. The last show to truly embrace its campy horror nature while injecting a delightful charm to it was Supernatural, and judging by its enormous, dedicated fanbase, probably has no signs of slowing down and fading away just yet. Along came Netflix with their promises to rejuvenate horror in the TV series format, first succeeding with Stranger Things, and now, The Haunting of Hill House.
The passion project of filmmaker Mike Flanagan - who previously directed the oustanding Ouija: Origin of Evil - The Haunting of Hill House is a spectacularly old-school haunted house story that adds several layers of complexity through its wide cast of interesting characters. The series isn't just about vengeful spirits occupying a mansion and tormenting its residents, but explores the dysfunctional happenings of its central family, both before the haunting, and several years after it. Despite the family drifting apart to pursue their own ideological dreams and aspirations, that lingering thought of where they grew up remains at the forefront of their subconscious, and of the series as a whole.
It usually takes a lot to scare me. I've dabbled in plenty of horror films over the decades, and never really felt uneasy watching something within the genre - save for a select few that include The Babadook and Insidious. However, The Haunting of Hill House succeeds in this regard because it genuinely made me feel terrified, and indescribably put me on edge; something that I didn't think I would be admitting in my lifetime. Flanagan is a superbly talented filmmaker who understands how to build tension, what to show you when its important to the scene, and what not to show you to keep you guessing until the very end. It's a fine balancing act that only a veteran horror director could pull off, and Flanagan demonstrates his immense capability to suck you into an experience through technical and storytelling prowess.
...one would expect the horror to take a backseat to the family drama, but... it knows to keep the focus dead-locked on its more terrifying aspects at all times.
...it asks viewers to be patient while it slowly unravels itself. Once the puzzle pieces start coming together, it's surprisingly riveting and emotionally powerful stuff.
I know for a fact that I will continue to think about some scenes in this series for the rest of my life.
Writer. Enthusiast of all things geek. Legend has it he completed Final Fantasy VII without a memory card.
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12 October 2018
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