Hill House is a novel that made an impact on a genre that had been in a lull. It was published in 1959, and the book is credited with helping to kick off a new wave of horror fiction.
The Haunting of Hill House is the story of a dysfunctional family that moves into a haunted mansion. The Crains hoped that the house would be their “forever home.” But the specters that haunt it can’t be explained away in a rational manner.
Mike Flanagan’s series uses the structure of a haunted house to explore more than just ghosts. It’s a story about grief and trauma, with the ghosts at Hill House serving as metaphors for the human experience.
Grief and trauma are universal, but they can be experienced in different ways by different people. The ten episodes of The Haunting of Hill House show how this affects the members of the Crain family.
They are all pushed to the limits of their sanity, and each of them experiences things that they can’t understand in their rational minds. The house itself is a mirror for them, reflecting their darkest thoughts back to them.
While the house itself is a monster, it is also the perfect metaphor for how we all process grief. It is the place where we bury the dead, and it is also where we have to confront our fears.
It’s not just the haunted house that ruins the lives of the Crain family, however; the lingering effects of their mother’s death are what really torment them. As Hugh (Henry Thomas) and Olivia (Carla Gugino) explain to Eleanor, they haven’t been able to heal the wounds that their mother left on them. The surviving children are all deeply scarred by their mother’s death, and they find that the house is a safe haven for them as they grapple with their own demons.
When a group of supernatural investigators, led by Dr. Montague, arrive at Hill House to study its paranormal activity, they discover that some of the hauntings are more pronounced than others. The youngest daughter, Nell, is visited by a woman she calls the Break Neck Lady, who stands before her bed or hovers over her as she sleeps. Her twin brother, Luke, is stalked by a monstrously tall ghost who glides above the ground and steers himself with a cane.
They are all frightened, and the specters are a nightmare fuel of the highest order. The young children are especially frightened, and they feed on the horrors that the rest of the family experience.
As the series progresses, we see how this distorted reality plays out in each of their personal relationships. We see that some people are able to process grief better than others, and that some of them can be cured.
In this way, Flanagan’s reimagining of Jackson’s novel takes her work on grief and trauma and neuters it. In fact, the resulting series is so well-executed that it almost feels like a tribute to Jackson’s writing. hill house condo