The internet’s been abuzz with the latest Netflix Originals horror series, The Haunting of Hill House. The tale of the haunting of the Crane family has captivated audiences as it not only told a very successful horror story, but was also edited beautifully with expert cinematography and superb casting.
After watching the entire series by myself, I introduced a few colleagues to it and was very surprised to learn that it appealed not only to hardcore horror fans like myself, but also to people with different likes and preferences.
Therefore, I’ve asked a few of them to write down why they loved the series, resulting in a list of the four people who should drop everything and watch The Haunting of Hill House right now!
So, first up is the horror hater and self-proclaimed pussy, Daniël. At first, he hated me for introducing him to the series, but after episodes four to six, he was hooked. I had my doubts that he would actually finish the series, but he persisted and I think actually enjoyed it in the end. I asked him to write a few sentences on his experience.
“OK – so here’s the truth, I am still scared to walk around alone in the dark in my house after watching The Haunting of Hill House. It’s not that I am physically scared of ghosts, or superstitious – if only I could blame it on something like that. I am an atheist, 6’2 male in a safe suburb and yet, when all the lights are off, and I walk up the stairs I just cannot help myself. I look up the stairs with expectation, every crack, creek or bark makes me jump, and every shadow has a certain, bent, look to it. Yes, I know it is all in my mind, but still, my mind goes there. I just can’t help it. When I lie on my back, staring at the ceiling, the shadows take on shapes and I need to think them away. And the dirty truth is, I enjoy it and it was worth it.
So why did I start and finish watching The Haunting? Very simply, because it was really very well done, from the storytelling to character development and definitely the production value. Jump scares are for kids, this cut right down to it for me. Real or fake, the other world, the unseen, is brought right up to you, so you can almost see, and believe it.”
The horror die-hard
Any horror fan would agree that this series is a lovely ode to the genre. It is a classic haunted house tale, complete with ghosts, jump scares, scary children and creepy neighbours. Like Rosemary’s Baby, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and more, The Haunting of Hill House touches on a very primal fear: the fear of being unable to protect one’s children.
Slotting into that genre, the series holds its own in comparison to all the aforementioned greats. Steering clear of possessions and other religious tracks made popular by horrors like The Nun, The Haunting of Hill House is actually a very clear-cut traditional horror.
I do fancy myself a bit of a horror aficionado. I love being scared and anything that challenges my perception of reality. I am not religious and therefore not inclined to believing in ghosts or spirits, but that does not mean that I do not enjoy watching them on the big screen.
What makes horrors really great is that nearly all of these movie universes have their own rules, myths, urban legends and backstories. There are tons of allegories, stories told over generations and those all-so-delicious sudden scares. The Haunting of Hill House does not disappoint on any of these points. The puzzle behind the mysterious red door is engrossing and comes with its own myths and rules.
Any die-hard horror lover would approve!
The film school scene
Back in my varsity days, film class was my favourite and the place where I made the most friends. During my second watch of the series, I was even more amazed at the impressive cinematography, camera work and editing than the first time. I contacted my film class friend, Sasha, to find out if she would recommend the series and why. She jotted down the following notes.
“I truly believe The Haunting of Hill House to be a cinematographic feat. In episode 6 there is a continuous shot that spans across more than 20 years and two different locations, and includes the entire family, as well as a ghost here and there. The director really pulled out all the stops to ensure continuity and create this dialogue effect – it is incredible to watch!
Another aspect worth mentioning is that all the characters are perfectly cast. It truly seems like the very same people only a few years apart. The children are adorable and it is very difficult not to fall in love with their kind natures.”
She also recommended watching the following “making-of” video released by Netflix:
The psychologist’s analysis
The clear mental health deterioration of Olivia Crane affected me way more than I would have liked. In my early twenties, I struggled a lot with my mental health and have since taken a very keen interest in trauma and the effects thereof. My friend, Riaan, completed his psychology degree a few years ago and now works as a social worker specialising in trauma in kids.
I gave him a call to find out what his take is on the trauma depicted in The Haunting of Hill House, specifically the main reasons that the children are haunted into their adulthood. My take was that it is a very true-to-life depiction, and Riaan agreed wholeheartedly.
“Right after the series was released, a theory surfaced that the children represented the five stages of grief. I only read that after watching the series for the first time and therefore decided to give it another go. Watching it with this in the back of my mind, I found a new dimension to the characters and tend to agree with the theory.
In the same sense, the trauma depicted in the series feels quite real. The effects of the initial childhood trauma follow them into adulthood and wreak havoc on their attempts to lead a ‘normal’ life. Each child processes the trauma differently, while the father is frustratingly passive.
The deterioration of the mother’s state of mind is another great interpretation of a descent into depression brought on by extreme anxiety. You can feel her lose grip of reality and sense that she realises what is happening to her, but being unable to pull herself together.”