The Haunting of Hill House: Season 1/ Episode 1 “Steven Sees a Ghost” [Series Premiere] – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

Title card for Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House.
83.34% (2)

The Haunting of Hill House seems to be more about a family’s drama, with horror elements to keep it from getting boring, than a fright fest.


Network
Netflix
CreatorShirley Jackson, Mike Flanagan
Director(s)Mike Flanagan
Writer(s)Mike Flanagan
Air Date10/12/2018
Genre(s)Drama, Horror, Mystery
Good If You LikeMelodrama

You Being Able To Sometimes Forget You Are Watching a Horror.

Family Quarrels

A Mix Of A Show Focusing On The Past, Specifically The Childhood Of Characters, And Them As Adults.

Noted Actors
Young NellieViolet McGraw
OliviaCarla Gugino
SteveMichiel Huisman
NellVictoria Pedretti
LukeOliver Jackson-Cohen
ShirleyElizabeth Reaser
TheoKate Siegel
Hugh (Dad)Timothy Hutton

Images and text in this post may contain affiliate links which, if a purchase is made from those sites, I may earn money or products from the company. Most affiliate links contain an upward facing, superscript, arrow.

The Introduction

The Crain family has experienced quite a bit of trauma during their stay at the Hill House. It was supposed to be Hugh’s usual house flipping but then strange things happened. His youngest, Nellie, saw a bent woman in her nightmares and eventually it got so bad he had to flee with the kids and leave his wife, Olivia, behind. Though, from what we hear, she was left behind because she was dead. Suicide is the cause.

Fast forward a couple of decades and the trauma of the Hill House still affects the family. Steve took what happened and made a literary career out of it. Exploiting his family’s story, then other people’s experience with what he calls the “Preternatural.“ The youngest two, Nell and Luke, they are all messed up in the head. Nell seems skittish and seemingly Luke took to drugs to deal with his trauma. Shirley seems okay, as does Theo, but Hugh? On top of not talking about what happened that night, it seems Olivia might be haunting him.

But, with Nell going back to the house, after decades of Hugh keeping it locked up, a drain on his funds, the worse thing imaginable happens. Something that every one of Nellie’s siblings feel as it happens.

Highlights

It Has A Few Scares In There

Young Nellie (Violet McGraw) staring at the Bent Neck Lady.
Young Nellie (Violet McGraw)

I have only recently decided not to avoid the horror genre, but am learning to understand the desire to feel fear in a safe environment. Now, being that the trailer had a creepy child and her talking about death, I was prepped to be scared. Especially watching this on a fall day, in the middle of the night, rain and other things hitting the windows, with the only sound being the fans in my PC.

At most, there are around 4 or so serious scares, of which 2 are jump scares. Which isn’t bad considering most of the episode is about building up to what happened the night everyone left

On The Fence

Sometimes You Need A Jump Scare To Wake You Up

At the heart of The Haunting of Hill House is a story about a family. One which, as kids, was rather functional. Yes, Luke may not have liked Theo, and Nellie got on his nerves, but they loved each other. Protected each other even. Steve, the oldest, would check on Nellie when she would scream at night. But then things happened.

Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser) upset that Steve is using their family trauma to write a book.
Steve: I didn’t have to do that | Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser): Of course we object. I object, Steve!

Now, as adults, Nellie and Luke’s calls are met with eye rolls and ignore buttons. Shirley is mad at Steve for publishing a book about their lives, Theo is possibly doing research of her own, to find every queer girl in the Boston area and Hugh? Well, he’s living in Florida and losing his mind.

Which is all well and good, but there does come a point where you feel like what was marketed and what was sold doesn’t necessarily match up. While creepy things are seen, and you get a jump scare here and there, you’re not necessarily scared. Now, it could be, as many a director critiques Netflix on, the full experience just can’t be given sitting in front of your computer. For there is something about The Haunting of Hill House which truly feels cinematic. But it could also be that the idea of being consistently scared was just a trojan horse for a family drama.

One that, again, seems interesting. It even seems to take on the pleas for stronger stories and performances in the horror genre. However, based off the pilot alone, it really does feel like a melodramatic movie. The kind which wins awards but paying customers didn’t watch. Making the horror element not so much a selling point but a means to wake you up as you grow tired of passive-aggressive arguments.

First Impression: Mixed (Stick Around)

Steve holding his first major book, "The Haunting of Hill House."

I wanted to like this, I kind of do like this, but The Haunting of Hill House feels like the type of show you watch week to week vs. binge. It’s the kind of show that requires you to process an episode, give your thoughts some time to settle, vs. taking one after another like Halloween candy. For with it really pushing story more than scares and thrills, it’s unlike many a Netflix program. Especially the ones you feel they are pushing as ones which could cause subscriber growth.

Leading to why the Mixed label. It isn’t so much the show’s quality, but it not aligning well to what was marketed. The Haunting of Hill House is a family drama, with horror elements. Often leading to long periods of hearing people drone on about their childhood, or trauma, with that interrupted, just to wake you up from a stupor, by a ghost, a scream, or jump scare. So while worth checking out, I’d say to definitely pace yourself. This isn’t something which could get sped through and you’d still enjoy it. Unless your means of binging is watching something, for the most part, yet sometimes allowing the show to become background noise.


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