The Haunting of Hill House – TV Review

Back in early September, I had casually added a particular series to my watchlist, thinking, “I’ll get around to it eventually.” However, with its release, the show quickly garnered significant attention, spreading like wildfire through word of mouth on the internet. It seemed that everyone, regardless of their affinity for the genre, was tuning in. Yet, I had somehow forgotten about this show that I’d penciled into my list. Amidst the buzz and clamor surrounding it, my memory was jogged, and naturally, I felt the urge to watch it. With the likes of Carla Gugino, Kate Siegel, Mckenna Grace, Lulu Wilson, and other notable names in the cast, it’s hard to resist. The series, helmed entirely by the director known for his horror films, Mike Flanagan, quickly became one of the year’s most acclaimed works, according to many. However, in my opinion, this acclaim holds true only until the sixth episode, to which I will dedicate a particular paragraph. But to briefly summarize, “The Haunting of Hill House” is, in my view, a series worth watching.

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Let’s delve briefly into the premise: A family of five children moves into a colossal mansion. Over time, the children are plagued by what they claim to be ghosts dwelling within the house. One fateful night, the family is compelled to flee the house, leaving behind a deceased mother. Many years later, when each has forged their own lives or struggled to do so, a late-night phone call from the youngest daughter upends their existence. Forced to reunite, the family begins to uncover the truths about the house that eluded them in their childhood.

Although marketed as a horror series, “The Haunting of Hill House” falls short in delivering genuine frights. The horror aspect, it must be said, is primarily a matter of marketing. If one approaches it as a horror series, it unequivocally fails to elicit fear. However, when viewed through the lens of a drama, the show emerges as a masterful family drama, embellished with the trappings of horror. In fact, it stands as one of the most exceptional family dramas you can encounter in recent years, possibly the very best. This is a true family drama, where each character is meticulously crafted, their pasts and futures meticulously revealed, and their interconnections skillfully portrayed.

The traumatic events of their childhood and the loss of their mother, which resulted in the dissolution and fragmentation of the entire family, beautifully intertwine with their struggles and failed attempts to hold on to the past, culminating in the unfortunate deterioration of their relationships in the future. It’s a daunting task to seamlessly connect such intricate layers of a storyline, and the series adeptly accomplishes this. Mike Flanagan’s meticulous craftsmanship ensures that the narrative remains taut throughout, never losing its grip, even for a moment.

The foundation of the family is laid out brilliantly. The eldest sibling’s authorship of the story surrounding their childhood home and the subsequent financial success, which extends support to the entire family, is a testament to clever scripting. The family’s life trajectories, shaped by the eldest sibling’s success, are vividly portrayed, successfully filling in the drama’s substance. Characterization and the family’s backstory, leading up to the funeral, are among the finest works I’ve witnessed in recent years.

However, following the sixth episode, the series both deconstructs its established reality and becomes mired in clichés. Failing to fully realize the built-up tension is one of the most frustrating aspects of cinema and particularly lengthy series. Regrettably, “The Haunting of Hill House” falls short in this regard.

In actuality, the series builds up remarkably well until the end of the sixth episode. At this point, I’d like to dedicate a paragraph to the sixth episode. This episode consists of five continuous single takes, with the camera not cutting for the first 15 minutes and 38 seconds. This scene was genuinely shot in a single take, with no editing tricks. To put it simply, if you took the single-take shot of the funeral, shared it online without any context or title, everyone would believe they had just watched a highly accomplished short film. From the camera work to the choreography, acting, and dialogue, this episode represents one of the most remarkable television events of 2018. Following the fifth episode of “Mr. Robot” in its third season, it’s one of the most extraordinary things I’ve witnessed on television.

However, the sixth episode’s ending, sadly, sees the series drowning in clichés, unnecessary drama, and protracted flashbacks. The unfulfilled drama that remains unaddressed surfaces here. Throughout the series, the house is purported to be a place of horror, but we are never truly shown its terrifying aspects. The so-called haunted house turns into a peaceful retirement home in the final episodes. The belated introduction of the Poppy character, and the little sibling’s failure to come to terms with herself, add to the list of unfulfilled details. The meticulously crafted family drama is undermined by ill-advised choices. This disheartening transformation is crystallized in the final episodes, and frustratingly, it occurs within the perpetually closed “Red Room.” In the grand scheme of things, the finales of series rooted in such strong drama should be climactic. Unfortunately, for me at least, “The Haunting of Hill House” ends on a deeply disappointing note.

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In essence, “The Haunting of Hill House” excels in masterfully weaving a multi-layered family drama until the end of the sixth episode, but it then succumbs to clichés and absurdities. Setting aside the brilliance of the sixth episode, it performs remarkably well up to that point. Should you ask if it’s worth watching? Absolutely.

Cast & Crew

creator: Mike Flanagan

starring: Michiel Huisman, Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas, Elizabeth Reaser, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Kate Siegel, Victoria Pedretti, Lulu Wilson, Mckenna Grace

USA | 2023 | 10 EPISODES |


Ukrainian Creative Director | Motion Picture Writer | Horror Freak

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