Last weekend I watched the first three episodes of The Haunting of Hill House, inspired by the iconic Shirley Jackson novel. This series focuses on newly invented characters, hideous new monsters, and the legacy left by childhood trauma.
The focus of each episode is divided between the young Crain family residing in America's “most famous haunted house” and their lives decades later as they’re all struggling to cope with the horrors that they witnessed as children.
Netflix are undeniably aiming to appeal to people who prefer a binge-watch in the comfort of their flat, compared to horror fans with the funds for cinema outings this October. At the helm of …Hill House is creator/director/writer Mike Flanagan who impressed critics with Hush but received underwhelming reviews for Oculus, a paranormal thriller starring Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan. Ouija: Origin of Evil received a similar reaction with film critic Katie Rife summing up as “Conjuring lite”. Despite previous criticism, the ten episode season has received heaps of praise on social media for its atmosphere, acting, and one particularly frightening apparition called 'The Bent-Necked Lady’.
However, Emily L. Stephens who recapped each episode for The A.V. Club was infinitely more critical of the series, and tremendously more accurate, when she highlighted how tragically predictable the first third of …Hill House was.
If you're even remotely familiar with horror tropes and are able to anticipate the most obvious jump scares, it's a frustrating watch. The scenes are well-acted, and the child actors are especially impressive as their terror is utterly convincing, but the fact I didn't flinch during moments that were intended to be petrifying is fairly damning.
Another flaw was how unlikable the Crain family could be: while the flashbacks to life at Hill House showcased how sympathetic and adorable the five children were (the family consists of twins Nellie and Luke, middle daughter Theo, and oldest siblings Shirley and Steven), many of their adult counterparts are abrasive, callous, and infuriating.
The youngest Crain son struggles with drug addiction as a result of his mother's violent death and his own disturbing experiences at Hill House, yet his three older siblings are so cruelly dismissive towards him, even offering him cash to buy drugs in exchange for leaving them alone. Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House doesn’t quite deliver, in terms of scares or entertainment, but luckily there are dozens of alternate choices on the streaming service.
The Haunting of Hill House is currently available on Netflix