“The Haunting of Hill House” is a re-imagining of Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel of the same name. The series focuses on a family of seven’s summer that ends in the mother’s death. The events of this summer haunt the rest of the family into their adult years. The story begins in the characters’ adulthoods, decades after the pivotal events of their lives. This is a unique perspective since many horror films and series begin in the midst of the action as if trauma is isolated.
Each character has their own way of coping with what happened that summer. One character writes about it, much to his siblings’ dismay. Another uses drugs and has been disowned by all but his twin sister. The next sees death every day in her job as a mortician. Another closes herself off from emotional connections and drinks heavily. The last one copes with medicinal and therapeutic treatment. These responses to trauma are all very human and help to establish a connection with the characters quickly.
The characters are often at odds with each other about what that summer meant. The proposed causes range from the supernatural to mental illness, to murder.
This series does not rely too heavily on cheap jump scares and instead uses suspense to create a heavy mood. This is fitting with the weight that each character is under from their past. The series uses the fear of the unknown to instill terror in viewers. In some scenes, there are ghosts in the background which are not acknowledged by the characters. This subdued presence of the supernatural allows a more foreboding and dreadful fear to develop rather than the kind that derives from jump scares.
The series uses a definitive jump scare in one scene which did not feel out of place. It was jarring, as the method had not been used so explicitly up to that point. The jump scare was followed by the closed-off Theodora, spilling her heart out to her sister, Shirley.
This series also ends in a less decisive way than other horror films and series. The cause of the terror is never fully explained. The characters’ stories begin with the house, but they do not end with it. This makes the characters believable, which is often lacking in the horror genre. It was terrifying in ways that latched terror onto the mind, and was hard to shake.