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The Haunting Of Hill House

Journeys end in lovers meeting…

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone. – Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House)

Over the weekend I watched the flavour of the season, The Haunting of Hill House, on Netflix. All 10+ hours of it.

I read Shirley Jackson’s book as a teen and remember loving it. The protagonist, Eleanor Vance, despite her 32 odd years seemed to have some of the same fears and anxieties one has as a teenager.

With the Netflix show, it wouldn’t matter if you have read the book or not. It is completely different, set in a different time, and has a different story.

There may be spoilers about the show up ahead, consider this as fair warning.

I think the show is well made. It is gripping for most of its lengthy duration even though it does falter a bit towards the end.

The character names, most of them are taken from the book but they are not necessarily the same in character.

Instead of Eleanor Vance and her struggles with the Hill House, we have Olivia Cairn who is married to Hugh Cairn (the Hill House builder in the book). Both Olivia and Hugh are trying to restore, and flip Hill House and the story is about their family stay in the Hill House, its effects on the family, more so on Olivia and the resulting chaos. The kids are estranged from their father and the close-knit family drifts apart.

Overall, the story is not bad. It is interesting though heavy on sibling dynamics which, in my opinion, kills the flow of the story.

What did bother me about the show is that there is not enough Hill House in the story. We get to see the siblings fight their inner demons and issues with their past outside of the house. The grip of the house on the characters feels weak.

In the book, all the characters, including Nellie believe the house to be haunted or at least to have a strange effect on people and despite their precautions, the inevitable happens. In the show, no one believes the house is evil, except the father and he refuses to say anything.

I also feel some of the characters were extraneous… Steve Cairn & Shirley Harris Cairn were definitely not needed. They were just there to bicker and throw tantrums. They could have just given Theo and Nellie more screen time. Of course, they killed off Nellie early on.

The last couple of episodes were especially odd as they tried to cram in some of the iconic passages in the book on screen and without any actual context for it they had to create very weird scenarios which on one hand might fit in to the arc that Hill House drives everyone crazy but on the other hand just felt like people reciting poetry.

I would recommend a watch. It is still better than most horror offerings but like most horror offerings today it is also deliberately vague, unlike the very well fleshed-out book.

Overall Show Score: 4/5
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