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ARTS & CULTURE

The Haunting of Hill House – Netflix Original

Grab some popcorn, a pillow to hide behind, a couple of mates – oh and maybe a new pair of pants just in case.

Without spoiling too much (this is a Netflix must see for horror fans and scaredy cats alike), the story of this chilling tale centres around a family of seven and a big ol’ spooky house. The episodes consistently flash back and forth between past and present. In the past, we watch a happy young family move into an old mansion with the intention to renovate it over a summer and sell it on for a big profit. In the scenes of the family first moving in, you may be fooled that you’re actually watching a Cheaper by the Dozen re-hash, just without Steve Martin shouting at the kids all the time. But no, sure enough you did select to watch The Haunting of Hill House from the horror section – and you’re in for a ride of paranormal happenings, psychological breakdowns, and jump scares that will make you glad you grabbed those extra pants

The present day is a gloomy affair with the now dysfunctional family all grown up and still trying to battle the events that happened in the house all those years ago. One of my favourite parts of the show is the clever and seamless transitions from present to past – a technique that a lot of shows have been really trying to nail down over the past few years. The casting director also clearly did a great job in finding actors that look like the present-day cast’s younger self (or vice versa). This obviously helps with continuity in the show and making us genuinely believe that the young girl in the past-scenes is now a young-woman in the present. The show is more than simply a horror as there is so much drama involved around the family, resulting in very demanding roles that all the actors rise to with ease. This is a welcomed feature as Netflix pump out so many movies and series now that there are quite a few with acting performances out there that are less commendable to say the least.

The Haunting of Hill House likes to keep you guessing, there is a focus on mental health as some characters start off adamant that the happenings in Hill House are the result of mental health issues that may even run in the family. The audience is left pondering the same as you wonder if the paranormal happenings in the present-day setting are actually symptoms of sleep-paralysis and PTSD spurred on from traumatising events that occurred when they were younger.

The story is compelling and leaves you wanting more at the end of each episode, the show is beautifully shot, and each scene is well thought out and staged perfectly. In many scenes there are out of focus figures and faces in the backgrounds which seem to only be there you creep you out even more. My only grievance with the series is how much the writers seem to love a monologue. Don’t get me wrong, some of these speeches and analogies fit the show perfectly and fill out the characters backgrounds and motives – but as soon as someone pointed this out to me it’s all I could notice in the last episode which is much less climactic that I was expecting. However, the final episode does draw the show to a some-what satisfying end and if you’re binging the show; episodes like number 5 and 9 are probably enough for one days’ worth of adrenaline.

The Haunting of Hill House will make you jump, scared, upset and, surprisingly, laugh. It’s a great piece of work that everyone should see – just maybe not alone!

The Haunting of Hill House, directed by Mike Flanagan is available on Netflix.

Ben Steer

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