Let’s face it: We all love a good scare. In any horror movie, we cover our eyes anticipating the ghostly hand to appear from under the bed, but leave a slit open in between our fingers. Why? Because the adrenaline rush from being terrified keeps us watching.
Just because the spookiest time of year has come to a close and the countdown to Christmas is beginning doesn’t mean it’s time to forgo scary movies for the season. It can be hard for Halloween fanatics to find a truly horrific movie they haven’t seen 21 times before. So when I found out that the shocking shrieks coming from my friend’s room were in response to episode three of “The Haunting of Hill House,”the horror junkie in me had to see if the show lived up to its ominous name.
Based loosely on Shirley Jackson’s identically titled novel, this 10-part series directed by Mike Flannagan depicts a story that transcends monsters hiding in children’s closets or a demon-possessed doll. A molting sculpture, accompanied by your typical, sinister violin music in the background, fades in and out of frame, and a red door concludes the title sequence. The first episode opens with the scene of five children escaping what we can only assume from the name: a haunted house. Throughout the series, the episodes jump back and forth in time, incorporating flashbacks to not only show the lives of each of those five kids as adults, but also to unveil the events that happened at Hill House. The beginning episodes target specific characters and how their own experiences at Hill House affected their (very messed-up) lives as adults, coping with their traumatic childhood.
The acting, especially from the child actors, is mystifying, ranking highly especially when compared to the acting in “It” and “Stranger Things.” The most disturbing parts of the show don’t lie in the scary faces that hide in the corner of the TV screen, but resonate through the dialogue, especially the characters’ monologues that echo more than any eerie music.
Of course, there are your typical, cliche horror moments: the creaky floor panels in the middle of the night, the sheets that get swiped away while sleeping, faces that hide in the corner of the screen and even the occasional pop-out ghost from within the darkness. Even the ending seems a little cliche (no spoilers, sorry), but it’s hard to avoid the happy ending with any unhappy show.
However, what makes this truly innovative and groundbreaking, in terms of a horror and Netflix series, is how the writers play on the idea of uncertainty and fear more than anything to target your emotions. Watching the show, you are given only snippets of the past, when you suddenly get hit with a major plot twist halfway through that has you screaming at your computer. This fear is different, since you never know what is real or what is just a byproduct of your repressed fears and trauma, and it makes you wonder if your true fears are the ones that manifest themselves within you. But you can’t stop watching, not only because the first five hours go by so fast, but because you never truly know the whole story until the last 10 minutes of the final episode. It’s addicting, just like our yearning to be scared.
Is this the scariest show I have ever seen? No, but I surprised myself at how many times I jumped and felt my skin crawl with a sudden feeling of discomfort that had me checking possible shadows from behind my shower curtain. Allot a full day to binge this, or else you will forget to do your homework due Monday (like me). All I can say is, I hope there will be a season two.
I give “The Haunting of Hill House” three and a half out of five stars