carla gugino, henry thomas, kate siegel, michiel huisman, mike flanagan, netflix, shirley jackson, the haunting of hill house
“I am home”, writes Steven Crain.
Hill House may well have been home for the Crain family, but it also holds the key to a life defining memory. Flashing back and forth between past and present, this haunted house yarn is about the psychological effects of events that lead to them abruptly fleeing a haunted house in the dead of night many years earlier.
“The Haunting of Hill House” is a genre busting ghost story with more levels than the house at its core. Using the Shirley Jackson novel (previously seen as “The Haunting” – both as the 1963 Robert Wise film and the 1999 Jan De Bont film) as its source material, master of horror Mike Flanagan has meticulously crafted a 10 part horror series for Netflix that is as much a traditional gothic horror as it is a story about how a family handles the traumatic stress of a horrific experience none of us could ever imagine. So essentially this is for anyone who wondered what was next for the Lutz family after “The Amityville Horror” or the Freelings post “Poltergeist”.
This is about the PTSD of horror and while they all have their ghosts to reconcile, these ones are literal.
Now this all may seem extremely heavy stuff, but there is still a good old fashioned ‘scare-ya-silly’ ghost story here and believe me it’s a frightening one too. The frights are drip fed when you least expect it and there’s creepiness resplendent too if you just keep your eyes open from behind that cushion.
But what makes this stand out as quite possibly the best horror of 2018 is the well developed characters, the incredible writing, and the heart (or boob) thumping performances. All of the actors throw their all into the work too and it’s evident in such stand out episodes as; “The Bent necked woman” that has one of the craziest WTF moments in horror history and “Two Storms” which is almost theatre. The almost hour long episode of “Two Storms” plays out over five cuts, as the characters all bounce off each other in long, incredibly choreographed 15-23 min takes.
Mike Flanagan has steadily crafted a brilliant career in horror films since his stellar debut film “Absentia”. Over the years he’s reinvigorated a franchise, with the prequel “Ouija: Origin of Evil”, directed a couple of Netflix exclusive films “Hush”, and the brilliant Stephen King adaptation “Gerald’s Game”, and is soon to direct another King adaptation “Doctor Sleep” (“The Shining” sequel). So it’s really no surprise his latest entry is his best…so far. There’s a familiar look to his work, a colour palette of greys and oranges, and a troop of regular actors that include the always amazing Carla Gugino, the outstanding Elizabeth Reaser, and Flanagan’s wife, Kate Siegel, who has her best role yet. Talking of actors, who knew ET’s Henry Thomas and Timothy Hutton looked so alike, here they play the role of Hugh Crain at various stages in his life and my god the similarity is uncanny.
Look, while this is very loosely based on the Shirley Jackson novel, it’s not a direct adaptation in the slightest, but it still has the locked red door, the spiral staircase, and spooky housekeeper Mrs Dudley. This is a fantastically complex gothic horror story for the Netflix generation.
- Myles Davies