October 4, 2023

Halloween Horrors: The Haunting of Hill House

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As Halloween creeps closer, so does the itch to watch a blood chilling horror show/movie. And so, this mini column is dedicated to recommending horror media to add a little bit of fright to your October!

The Haunting of Hill House is the first part of a horror anthology directed by Mike Flannigan and based off of the book by Shirley Jackson. It follows five siblings through two different timelines, one in the present when they are adults, one in the past as kids, living in Hill House. The show’s “adult” timeline centers around a tragic event that befalls the Crain family and forces them to reconvene after years of physical and emotional disconnect. Meanwhile, the “childhood” timeline follows the Crain family through their summer spent at Hill House. The ultimate climax of the series is teased throughout the season, where the viewer finally finds out what happened on what is referred to as “the final night” the family spent at Hill House in the final episode. The first five episodes each center around one of the Crain children, descending in birth order, while the last five shift perspective with more frequency. 

Though the show contains elements of classic paranormal horror, it is original in its expansion of the genre beyond the typical haunted house trope. The show implements a mastery of standard scare tactics such as suspense, foreshadowing, an eerie soundtrack, the grotesque and jump scares, but it is also able to scare the viewer in a more profound manner.  The miniseries uses ghosts and horror as a physical manifestation of the psychological trauma that haunts the mind. It investigates belief, who we choose to believe and why, as well as what implications it has. The “truth” also becomes something multifaceted and fractured as the Crain family reckons with what each of them experienced that summer all those years ago. At the heart of the show is its exploration of the psychological ramifications of grief on the human psyche. Both of its main plotlines are centered around loss as the characters all try to cope in their own ways. Each of the five siblings are representative of one of Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s five stages of grief, with the oldest falling victim to denial and the youngest in a state of acceptance. 

As Steven, the oldest of the Crain children, says in the first episode, “a ghost can be a lot of things; a memory, a daydream, a secret, grief, anger. Guilt. But in my experience, they are most times just what we want to see… most times a ghost is a wish.” The success of The Haunting of Hill House lies in its ability to blend supernatural phenomena with ultra-human thoughts, feelings and emotion to leave viewers thoroughly haunted. 

Sophie Gross is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].