Netflix’s new horror series, The Haunting of Hill House, has certainly had its fair share of fanfare and hype even before its release although the mostly positive reviews of it seem to be back up the hype. I will tell you if I liked it or not by the end of this review as, at time of writing this, I’m still not sure myself.
What I will say first of all is that personally, I didn’t find the show to be that scary. Even though I’m not one for being scared easily, I’m able to appreciate when something I am watching is really creepy and would freak people out but I didn’t get a feeling like that with this. There is never really a sense of danger from the ghosts during the scenes set in the past perhaps because you have already seen the children alive in the future. The bent neck lady was the only ghost I found to be truly creepy and the only memorable ghost as well.
Instead the show works quite well as a drama about humans, about the Crane family, about the psychological permutations of the hauntings they experienced as kids and how that has had an impact on the characters they grew into as adults. When characters see ghosts outside of Hill House, it makes you wonder if they are being haunted or if it is their own mind playing tricks on them. The story of their adult lives is at its best when the siblings are in conflict with each other with most of them having justifiable reasons to confront one another.
I feel that Nell is the only character we really get to see everything about with one episode heavily focussed on her life. I feel this episode was the strongest from an emotional standpoint and as I mentioned with the bent neck lady being the only memorable ghost, it’s fitting that this ghost is heavily entwined with Nell’s story. Steven comes a close second in terms of characters we truly get to know as I’d guess he probably gets the most screen time of all of them and seems to be the central figure, usually as both a voice of reason and a point of conflict.
The show itself isn’t the easiest to follow and that’s not just because it goes between the past and the present constantly. The show is very jumpy but unfortunately that’s not because of the scares. One episode could show you a three day period in the past and then another episode will jump back to day two in that timeframe and add an extra thirty seconds of information to fill in the gaps. We also go to the show’s present minus two months in one episode and then minus three months in another. I understand this is for the slow release of information but it feels like there could have been better ways to do it. It reminded me of season four of Arrested Development on Netflix which suffered from too much jumping back and forth to show the lead up to events from a number of different characters’ perspectives.
The final episode, as you might expect, answers and resolves most questions although I still had to look it up afterwards just to make sure I understood it everything correctly. It is emotional and at times tense as we begin to see the full events of a certain night unfold which is constantly referenced and teased from the start. However, the final couple of episodes does take away from the eeriness of the ghosts as there are plenty shown in plain sight and a couple of the characters converse with them freely taking away their aura.
Overall I would say that The Haunting of Hill House was at the very least intriguing and kept me watching to see how it panned out. I don’t feel as though it is some landmark horror series but I could be wrong. The human drama kept me interested while the ghosts tended to flounder. So if you like shows with human drama, this could be for you. If you’re looking for a scare, try something else.