The premise of the new Netflix horror show Hill House may sound familiar: a family moves into a haunted mansion in the hopes of selling it and moving on. Adapted by Mike Flanagan from the novel by Shirley Jackson, the new series has a lot to say about trauma and generations of family secrets.
The show follows the Crain family (Hugh, Olivia, Steven, Theodora, Shirley and Luke) as they renovate and sell Hill House in the summer of 1992. But the more time they spend in the house, the more they begin to experience strange events that threaten them physically and mentally.
When we first meet the Crains, the eldest son, Steven, is working on a scholarly research project for a local college. The rest of the family is in an ill-advised marriage, and Hugh wants to move them into Hill House in order to restore it and sell it.
As the siblings rehearse their research, they have a series of flashbacks to the time when they lived in the house. The flashbacks take place in the past, when they were children, and also in the future, after they had grown up.
But as the children become more and more aware of what is happening around them, they have to confront the dark forces that are threatening their lives. Their demons, which they’ve been avoiding since childhood, suddenly start to make themselves known.
What I love about the show is that Flanagan takes a deft and measured approach to unfolding the close-held family secrets and revealing the many dark things lurking in the shadows. He isn’t content to simply let the house scream at these kids, but instead shows them what they’ve been missing out on all this time.
This is a series that loves serial storytelling and the experience of horror when framed from the perspective of children. It’s a combination that’s more than just a little unconventional for a director of big-budget films like Oculus and Gerald’s Game, but it’s one that pays off in spades here.
Each episode alternates between the future and past plotlines, with a different character being the focus of each. This is how Flanagan plays with time, a technique that’s used in all his films to explore the long-term effects of trauma.
During one of these flashbacks, we see the young Steven (Paxton Singleton) as he watches his mother die in front of him. He then sees her ghost at the funeral home. But the ghost appears to be a different person than what we see in the past. This could mean that she’s an even younger version of her mother, or that her ghost is someone that they haven’t seen before in the show.
The most interesting thing that happens in this episode, though, is that we get a glimpse of Abigail Dudley, the daughter of caretakers Horace and Clara Dudley. She’s a little girl who can’t leave her home to play outside, which seems a bit odd given the aforementioned unsettling nature of Hill House itself. hill house condo