Mike Flanagan, the man behind Hush and The Legend of Hell House, brings his flair for horror to an old-fashioned ghost story in Netflix’s 10-episode The Haunting of Hill House. The series is loosely based on the 1959 novel by Shirley Jackson.
The story follows the Crain family, who move into the eponymous mansion in 1992 as Hugh and Olivia look to flip it for a profit. As they renovate the place, however, they begin to experience increasing paranormal phenomena that lead to a tragic loss and an exodus from the property. Twenty-six years later, the siblings and their father reunite to confront their past and grapple with how their time in Hill House has affected them.
Using Jackson’s novel as a roadmap, Flanagan and his writers and cinematographers explore the hauntings of Hill House through two timelines, moving between present-day events and flashbacks depicting what occurred when the family fled from the mansion in 1992. This makes it a unique take on the haunted-house genre, which often takes place in a supposedly haunted location and then examines the effects of those experiences on the lives of its occupants.
While most modern-day haunted-house tales have the haunted house a metaphor for the body, Flanagan and his writers and cinematographers use Hill House to represent the Crain family’s fractured relationships with one another. The ghosts of Hill House aren’t nameless spirits trapped between spiritual realms; they are personal manifestations of each member’s trauma.
The eldest son Steven (Paxton Singleton) and his siblings Shirley, Theodora, and twins Nell and Luke (Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Julian Hilliard) are all traumatized by their time at Hill House, but they come to terms with their hauntings in different ways. While the eldest son is able to overcome his experiences and move on, the youngest son struggles with addiction and mental illness.
He tries to push his memories of Hill House away, but it doesn’t help. He eventually falls into a drug addiction that causes him to re-experience his trauma and even see ghosts in his head.
In the show, Steven is also able to see Abigail Dudley, the daughter of the Hill House caretakers Horace and Clara Dudley, as she appears in the house as an imaginary friend for him. She’s one of the most powerful and manipulative of all the resident ghosts, and she wreaks havoc on the Crain family members’ relationships with each other.
She also possesses a gift for psychic communication. As a child, she was “sensitive” to people’s feelings and could sometimes feel otherworldly knowledge about them without being able to communicate.
But she has since learned to hide her abilities. She’s also developed a deep bond with the spirit of her deceased mother, Eleanor Vance.
It’s an emotionally devastating scene, but it sets the tone for what follows. When Nell, the second eldest daughter, visits her dad in his apartment and tries to frighten him with her sudden appearance, the two are immediately hit with a shock that leaves them both reeling. Then, just as Nell begins to scream, she is suddenly dead. hill house condo