The Haunting of Hill House

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality. 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, silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

The Haunting of Hill House is a Netflix Original Web Series which was released on October 12 and is loosely based on the novel of the same name published in 1959 by Shirley Jackson. It has an IMDb rating of 9.0. The director, Mike Flanagan refurbished the story to be pertinent to the 21 st century genre of Family Drama laced with Horror. The story revolves around a family of seven who lived in Hill house for a fleeting time in summer. The establishing shot opens an altered monologue narrated by the eldest son of the Crain family from the first paragraph of the original book.

The entire series jumps around in time and space with recurring lengthy flashbacks to the time the family spent in Hill House. These flashbacks make up a major part of the series but does not provide any direct approach. The approach is rather metaphoric with the use of juxtaposition of images, dialogues and implications. For instance, silence in the narrative almost has a physical weight as it ‘lays steadily’ in the house which is ‘not sane.’ The narrative complexity thus comes in form of realism and fantasy where juxtaposition is used to show the contrast between scientific approach and fictitious approach.

The members of the Crain family are looked at as oddities who are juggling mental health issues inherited and further metastasized with trauma, guilt and terror. The slow, steady and anxious buildup of plot leaves enough room for the concept of isolation in terms of location and feeling seem realistic to the audience who can empathize, understand and relate to it. Isolation is made a weapon of destruction and death. The carefully constructed plot has lengthy portrays of the members of the family who are previously misunderstood and judged. The appearances of ghosts are the inklings that are often overlooked by the viewers as well as the characters in the series. The literary trope used in form of motif builds the sequence and the story without deflecting the audience in this serpentine time concatenation.

Apart from a few jump scares, the series tried to experiment with the intuitive nature of human vehemence and other emotions such as loneliness, anger, sadness and desperation to find an escape route. This helped establish a connection between the characters and the viewers. The profoundly realistic perception of ghosts is almost tangible, and the terror is bona fide which makes eight hours of watching this worth it.

Review by: Nikita Yardi

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