Tuesday, December 11, 2018

An Imperfect Haunting: The Haunting of Hill House

Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House sucked me in with its hyper-dysfunctional family and creepy-as-sin ghosts. I watched the show quicker than I normally would because of the high quality of the production, but it was not without a few hiccups.

Dream House, am I right?
But first, the good stuff. The first episode was one of the best, and it set me up to look at Steve as a primary character among his siblings, even when his own flaws (they all have them) came to light. Luke's episode was the absolute best - the ghost following him everywhere was hands down the scariest, most disturbing of the specters haunting this traumatized, broken family, and its traditional nature (in the gothic sense) really resonated deeply with me. Luke's performance was one of the most impressive as well. The set for Hill House was fantastic, and there were moments were the overlap between the past and the present, between the Crane's tortured childhood and their present, was masterful. It bent the idea of reality and of time as moving only ever forward (especially in the case of Nelly), that added another psychological layer to the drama of living in a haunted house and losing their mother. Their father Hugh was one of the most interesting characters, and I thought his performance was one of the best too, as was the incredible monologue by the groundskeeper about why his wife won't stay after dark. There was so much emotion, so much expression in that speech - I was riveted. Many such monologues throughout the show were knockouts, but that one is gonna stick with me.

That being said, the show as a whole was not terribly balanced, and my enjoyment of the show did suffer as a result. Though I appreciated things I saw both in the Cranes's childhood and adulthood, often the switches between the two were too frequent, and it felt like I was only getting nibbles at a time, rather than more developed, nuanced scenes. Additionally, because each of the episodes focused on a different character, there were some episodes I liked better than others, because there were some characters that I was drawn to more than others. And the nature of some of the hauntings felt a bit trite to me (the flapper ghost comes to mind). Don't get me wrong - I'm perfectly content with malevolent ghosts, but this one was too solid, too flippant for my taste. The ghosts that did much better in this show were the ones that flitted in and out of existence. Highlighting that semse of the ephemeral heightened the mood for me. Case in point - the clockworker. He was one of the most effective, because of how he was presented as being taken for granted, a blip of reality without even knowing it.

Despite my misgivings about certain decisions this show made, overall I'm very glad of the decision that brought this show to us, and I can only hope that more quality genre-centric programming is on the horizon. Bring me your horror, your sci-fi, your fantasy and your period pieces. I'm ready!

K Rating: 4/5

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 Only you can prevent black mold. 

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