DVD review: “The Haunting of Hill House” (2018)

“The Haunting of Hill House” (2018)


10 Episodes

Developed by: Mike Flanagan based on ‘The Haunting of Hill House‘ by Shirley Jackson

Featuring: Michiel Huisman, Elizabeth Reaser, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Kate Siegel, Victoria Pedretti, Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas and Timothy Hutton

Elanor: “Am I walking toward something I should be running away from?”

Released recently on DVD is the Netflix production of “The Haunting of Hill House” (2018) that was released last year on the streaming service, it is at least the third adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, this one being the more spiritual as opposed to taking the story like previous incarnations this one uses characters to create more of a melodrama than a straight horror, which for a series makes more sense and is all the better for it.

The series is set in the summer of 1992, Hugh and Olivia Crain and their children – Steven, Shirley, Theodora, Luke, and Nell – move into Hill House to renovate the mansion in order to sell it and build their own house, designed by Olivia. However, due to unexpected repairs, they have to stay longer, and they begin to experience increasing paranormal phenomena that results in a tragic loss and the family fleeing from the house. Twenty-six years later, the Crain siblings and their estranged father reunite after tragedy strikes again, and they are forced to confront how their time in Hill House had affected each of them.


Steven Sees a Ghost: Steven Crain is an author known for The Haunting of Hill House, an autobiographical novel about his childhood experience while residing in the haunted mansion along with parents Hugh and Olivia, and his younger siblings Shirley, Theo, Nell and Luke. During their stay, the Crain family encounters paranormal occurrences and is forced to flee without Olivia, who dies within the house, traumatising the rest of the family. Years later, Steven used his family’s traumatic experiences to write his book, straining the bonds with his siblings. Although it became a best-seller, Steven missed most of the frightening experiences and does not actually believe in the paranormal. Theo goes to a bar where she flirts with a woman, Trish, and goes home with her. Steven and Shirley miss calls from Nell, who then calls Hugh and expresses concern for Luke, who has become an addict. Steven returns home, he sees Luke leaving with equipment stolen from his apartment and when he enters the apartment finds Nell there. While talking to her, Steven receives a call from Hugh informing him that Nell went to Hill House and has died. Steven realizes that Nell is a ghost.

Open Casket: In childhood flashbacks at Hill House, Shirley encounters a box of kittens located in a hut nearby the mansion, and manages to convince her parents to let her take them inside the house. However, the kittens all end up dying, which deeply affects and disturbs Shirley, who obsesses over why she couldn’t fix them. Some time later after she and her family have left Hill House, a funeral is held for Olivia and an initially distraught Shirley is surprised and in awe that the mortician was able to “fix” her mother. As an adult, Shirley is now a mortician who owns a funeral business alongside her husband, Kevin, and rents a guest house to Theo, who is now a child therapist. Shirley soon gets a call from Steven, who informs her of Nell’s death. Distraught and shaken, she requests that Nell’s corpse be brought to her and she embalms her sister herself. However, after completing the embalming, Shirley suffers a scare when she encounters a ghost from her past.

Touch: Flashbacks reveal that Theo is able to perceive feelings from people and impressions from objects when she touches them with her bare hands. An incident with Luke in the dumbwaiter leads to a secret cellar not mapped in the house’s blueprints, where he encounters a ghost that attacks him. Luke is upset that no one believes him, so Theo investigates and finds a hidden door leading to the basement. Olivia reveals to Theo that her grandmother (and by extent, she and her daughters) are “sensitive” and gives Theo a pair of gloves to protect her hands. While working as a therapist for children in foster care, Theo comes across a child that she can’t “read” and who claims to be tormented by “Mr. Smiley”, a monster that lives in the basement. Theo goes to the house where the little girl lives and discovers the truth of the situation through her touch; the foster dad was molesting the girl and Mr. Smiley was a manifestation of the abuse. Theo contacts the authorities and the foster dad is arrested. Afterward, she goes to the morgue, takes off her gloves and touches Nell’s forehead. Theo then collapses and screams. Later, Theo opens up about herself to Trish. A flashback to their last night in Hill House reveals disturbing images when Theo touches her father on the way out including Hugh and Olivia fighting and getting pushed up against the wall and hitting her head.

The Twin Thing: Child Luke was frustrated his family never believed him. He finds a friend named Abigail, who all of the family insist is imaginary. Luke claims a bowler hat his mother finds in the attic and wears it frequently. In the present, Luke is now 90 days clean and determined to stay that way. Luke and Nell have shared a “twin thing” since birth, and each is able to feel the other’s physical ailments. Luke’s best friend in the halfway house, Joey, runs away to get high, and Luke follows after. Child Luke wakes up one night and encounters the spirit of a tall man that comes to collect its bowler hat from Luke. Luke finds his friend, but during his search, Luke feels unnaturally cold and stiff. Lacking money for a place to stay, Luke breaks into Steve’s apartment to steal items to sell. Joey takes the money and disappears and later Luke is mugged, leaving him shoeless and wandering with the hatted man following him. The feeling of cold from earlier is unbearable and Luke calls the halfway house to beg to be allowed back in. Steve informs Luke of Nell’s passing. Luke shakily states it wasn’t suicide.

The Bent-Neck Lady: Child Nell is tormented by an apparition she calls the Bent-Neck Lady, a ghostly figure with a broken neck standing at the foot of her bed while Nell is unable to move. Adult Nell sees a sleep technologist, Arthur, for sleep paralysis and the two immediately hit it off. They become engaged, eventually marrying. During one sleep paralysis episode Arthur suffers a sudden brain aneurysm, dying, while Nell sees the Bent-Neck Lady again. Nell begins to use her medication less and less, causing schisms with Theo and Steve. In her broken state, and convinced by her therapist that Hill House is “just a carcass in the woods”, Nell drives off to the house. She enters the house and encounters an idyllic scenario of her family and Arthur in a beautifully renovated mansion before finding herself at the top of a staircase, where she puts a noose around her neck whilst imagining it to be her mother’s locket, before she is pushed from the ledge by her mother, breaking her neck. As she dies, she sees herself fall and travel through the past revealing that she herself is the Bent-Neck Lady haunting her younger self, becoming a ghost of the house.

Two Storms: The episode alternates between two storms: one the family experienced in the past, at Hill House, the other in the present, the night before Nell’s funeral, with the entire Crain family meeting at the funeral parlor to view Nell’s body, together in the same room for the first time since leaving the house. During the storm in the past, Nell goes missing. While searching for her, Olivia sees spirits in the house, and enters a fugue state, acting strangely and unlike herself. The children see a creature in the house. Nell is eventually found, and she says she had been there the whole time, but they couldn’t see her. At the funeral home in the present, the Crains share memories of Nell. Odd things happen: Steve sees a flash of the ghost of his sister, the power goes out, something is interfering with Nell’s body, and Hugh sometimes seems to talk to himself. The family demands answers from Hugh about what happened, leading to several confrontations and revelations. Tempers rise and the arguments turn nasty. This escalates until Nell’s coffin falls over, interrupting the fights. Nell’s spirit had been in the room the whole time as they fought, though no one could see her.

Eulogy: Hugh is getting dressed and ready for the funeral, revealing that he has been talking to Olivia. Hugh attempts to reach out to Shirley, who is uncooperative, but has better luck with Theo, and the two converse over each other’s mistakes and make amends. During the funeral, Hugh tries to reconnect with his children. In the past, assessing the house for storm damage, moisture and mold suggest a leak, but they can’t find a source. Mr. Dudley assists Hugh, revealing some history of the house’s previous occupants. Mr. Dudley suggests the increasingly-erratic Olivia needs to spend time away from the house, sharing some of the strange experiences he and Mrs. Dudley have had, and why they never come to the house at night. Hugh and Olivia agree she needs to spend some time away when her behavior becomes disturbing and dangerous. Hugh discovers the source of the moisture and solves the disappearance of William Hill, the original owner. The ghost of Olivia appears twice, attacking Luke at the funeral and then Hugh and Theo in Shirley’s office, also putting buttons over the eyes of Nell’s corpse. Luke goes missing after the funeral.

Witness Marks: Steven and Hugh drive around to find Luke. Steven believes the family’s issues are mental and explains he underwent a vasectomy to avoid spreading his family’s “sickness”. Shirley and Theo stay at the funeral parlor to keep watch on whether Luke will use the stolen credit card. They have an argument and are spooked by unexplained knocks across the walls. Shirley gets a notification of Luke using the credit card for gas, nearby Hill House. Hugh reveals to Steven that while he was living in the house, Steven had been seeing ghosts all along; he just didn’t realize they were ghosts. He also explains that Steven and his siblings are like “an unfinished meal” to Hill House. Shirley and Theo decide to drive up to Hill House, while continuing to argue with each other. Nell’s ghost scares them during their argument, until they mend their bond. Luke arrives at Hill House and tries to burn it down, only to be caught off guard by a vision of Olivia and another ghost, who incapacitates Luke.

Screaming Meemies: In a flashback, Hugh finds Olivia, Nell, and Luke asleep on a couch, and she tells him she wished the children could stay like that forever. When she walks through her reading room door she enters the morgue containing the corpses of adult Nell and Luke, where Nell speaks to her. She wakes up in the middle of the night and encounters the ghost of Poppy Hill. Olivia agrees to leave Hill House the next morning to get some rest at the home of her sister, Janet, but actually checks into a nearby motel. She returns to Hill House and the family’s last night at the mansion starts to unfold as an unstable Olivia rouses the twins and Abigail, who was staying over for the night, for a tea party in the Red Room. Shirley noticed her mother behaving oddly in the kitchen and awakes Hugh. He realizes Olivia had tainted tea with rat poison and is able to intervene before Luke and Nell drank the tea, but arrived too late to save Abigail. Hugh gets the kids out of the house, leaving a horrified Olivia behind, who dies when she falls off the top of the spiral staircase.

Silence Lay Steadily: Steven and Hugh see Luke lying unconscious in the Red Room after failing to burn down Hill House. Steven becomes locked in the room and awakens from a nightmare to find Luke near death as Theo and Shirley, unconscious nearby, awaken after experiencing revelatory dreams about their lives. In Luke’s dream he arises inside a pristine room and finds Olivia, Abigail, and a young Nell. Olivia wants him to stay, but Nell tells him to leave. He wakes up gasping and points to Nell’s specter as having saved him. Nell explains that the Red Room is the “stomach” of the house and the room in which each of them had lived a personal fantasy. Before vanishing she assures them that they had all loved each other completely. Olivia’s ghost tells Poppy to stay away from Hugh. Olivia doesn’t want her children to leave, but Hugh convinces her to open the door and let them escape. Hugh and Steven stay behind and Olivia’s death and its aftermath are revealed. The Dudleys were Abigail’s parents and convince the younger Hugh to keep the death of Abigail and how it transpired a secret. Hugh, who had died by now, enters the room and joins Olivia and Nell. Two years later the siblings, with bonds reconciled, celebrate Luke’s sobriety together with their partners.

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