Hill House is a haunted mansion in the English countryside that has terrorized residents for centuries. It was invented by Shirley Jackson in her classic novel The Haunting of Hill House, and has been the subject of two feature films inspired by the book. It’s now being reimagined as a Netflix series, and the results are terrifying.
In the first episode, occult scholar Dr John Montague and his assistants arrive at the house with the intention of exploring its paranormal powers. As they delve into the dark corners of the house, strange noises and unexplained events begin to manifest. One of the recruits, Eleanor Vance, is especially drawn to the house.
As she begins to connect with the house, it seems as if she is able to feel and see everything that happens inside it. This is a revelation for Eleanor, who has never felt comfortable in any place before, and who has always hid her feelings and emotions from others.
But as she reaches the point where her mental illness is becoming worse, Eleanor’s feelings of isolation resurface. Eventually, she becomes so desperate to escape her fears that she kills herself in the house’s basement.
There are a number of ghosts who haunt Hill House, but some are particularly frightening. Poppy Hill, a 1920s-era ghost who seduced Olivia and married into the Crain family, is one of the most menacing.
Alternatively, the spirit of William Hill – the house’s namesake and its original owner – is another. He died in the house and was bricked up inside. As a result, it is believed that the house is haunted by him.
The story of Hill House is told from several perspectives, each with their own emotional stakes. The eldest, Steven Crain, is the only character not to have a counterpart in the book, but as an adult he writes about the events that took place in the house as if they were fiction.
He does this, in part, to disassociate from his traumatic experience. He is also a recovering alcoholic, and his recurring memories of the house are affecting his own life.
In contrast, Nell, Steven’s wife and mother of his children, is not as receptive to the house’s supernatural influence. She is prone to depression and has a strained relationship with her parents, but when she starts experiencing the house’s hauntings, she is unable to resist them.
This is a theme that permeates the show, as it suggests that trauma can lead to irrational and violent acts. As such, the Crain family’s collective trauma is a source of tension for the entire series.
As a result, they are constantly in conflict with each other. Despite being close as siblings, they can’t seem to get along. It’s only when they realize that Hill House is haunted that they can finally come to terms with their shared struggles and trauma.
This is a show that uses the tried-and-true horror tropes to tell a compelling tale of human frailty and insecurity. In doing so, it’s a series that manages to create a haunting that’s both genuinely terrifying and surprisingly cathartic.