The Haunting of Hill House

If you are impatient waiting for Stranger Things to return then Netflix has the perfect time-killer in The Haunting of Hill House.

Inspired by the 1959 novel by Shirley Jackson, it has been given a Binge TV makeover with significant changes, but they are savvy enough to work in their own right.

Instead of a tale of strangers invited to a spooky house to prove the existence of the supernatural (Scooby Doo, where are are you?), our characters are siblings who once lived in the castle-like estate with their parents.

The 10 part drama is set over two time periods (Then / Now) which appear to be circa 1990s and 2018. Older and younger casts play the Crain children over the two periods. Hugh Crain (Henry Thomas) and his wife Olivia (Carla Gugino) are refurbishing Hill House with a dream to flip it and build their dream “forever” house.

They have 5 children Steven (Paxton Singleton), Shirley (Lulu Wilson), Theodora (Mckenna Grace), and twins Luke (Julian Hilliard) and Nell (Violet McGraw). But as things go bump in the night the younger children talk of seeing a “bent neck lady.” Without divulging too much, it all leads to terror and tragedy….

In the present era a lot has changed for the grown-up children. Steven (Michiel Huisman) is now an author of famous ghost books, including his autobiographical The Haunting of Hill House. Yet while the supernatural is all around him, Steven has never seen a ghost for himself. Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser) has become a funeral director and adopts a maternal role over her siblings. Both drive the narratives of this complex series.

While Theodora (Kate Siegel) indulges in fast lesbian sex for platonic satisfaction, sister Nell (Victoria Pedretti) and Luke (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) are in much darker places. The family is also scattered across the US, with dad Hugh (Timothy Hutton) now living in Florida.

Getting your head around the time leaps and staying on top of the relationships takes some effort, but gradually gets easier. There are also a lot of holes to fill in. How did we get here? What happened in the house? But these lend themselves well to the binge model and the story chugs along with enough scary moments to entertain.

Michiel Huisman and especially Elizabeth Reaser step up as sympathetic characters with nuanced performers. Unlike Stranger Things there’s zero humour and at times it risks moments of melodrama, but for the most part stays the course.

More harrowing than horr-owing, The Haunting of Hill House has me hooked.

The Haunting of Hill House begins today on Netflix.

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