Did I just watch a brilliant 4th season of This is Us or the greatest Haunted House series ever? (I will not be the only one to make that reference because it’s pretty obvious).
Normally I post Sci-fi ideas to this site. But today we’re going to celebrate one. It’s rare that I immediately re-binge watch a television series. But I just restarted The Haunting of Hill House because it’s that good. It certainly helps in my case that haunted house movies are perhaps my favorite genre of horror cinema. From Burnt Offerings to the animated Monster House, there are very few I haven’t watched and enjoyed. Haunted houses have secrets. They have families living in them with secrets. And the two typically merge in the most awful ways imaginable. But haunted house long form TV almost always fails to capture the dark and serious nature of a good haunted house story. That’s not the case with The Haunting of Hill House.
Spoiler Alert!!! ————- Past this line —————– Spoiler Alert!!!
If you haven’t yet seen T.H.O.H.H., here’s the synapsis. Several siblings are brought back together after tragedy strikes one of them. The show proceeds to brilliantly go back and forth between two timelines from the past to the present (in a very similar but darker “This is Us” style). In the childhood years the family moves into a large – ancient – house in order to renovate and flip it. The family soon starts noticing disturbances in the home, until one late night for a reason not revealed until the 10th episode, the father evacuates the home with the children, leaving the mother to some unknown-until-later fate. And little by little from episode 1 through 10 the story is pieced together.
The first thing that probably strikes many 70s and 80s kids is that Henry Thomas plays the dad during the childhood years. It’s fairly uncanny how recognizable Henry is in his late 40s as the kid who played Elliot in ET. Then the same character is played by Timothy Hutton in the present day. Both of those characters offer instant nostalgia and manage to set a very quality tone to the acting early in. The rest of the cast delivers as well with believable terror, and convincing family drama.
Most of the entire season takes place in two locations, a funeral home and the mansion. This pretty much leaves us in two of the best of horror flick environments for close to eight hours of viewing. The huge mansion is the perfect stereotypical haunted mansion complete with massive foyer, dramatic staircase, and halls large enough for ghost to hide well or open doors without being noticed. One problem I’ve personally had with some Netflix films is that they tend to display really dark unless I’m watching on the brightest of monitors. But for a horror flick filmed in mostly dark rooms, T.H.O.H.H. was surprisingly easy on the eyes.
This is a horror movie so obviously the most important aspect of any horror flick is the scare/creepo factor. This is where T.H.O.H.H. shines. The editing is superb. The tone is perfect. The ghosts are scary. The scares are sneaky. And the questions are numerous. Are the people insane? Does the house hold a grudge? Is it all a hallucination due to the black mold all over the house? Technically everyone who dies is killed by themselves or by someone else in the house. And while much is revealed by the last episode there are plenty of mysteries still surrounding the house. It’ll be interesting to see what they come up with for season 2.
Obviously, I’m a fan. But this is an honest review and there were some things that to me were not-so-great.
I was disappointed that the story starts as a family renovating the house. That just seems overdone to me. I wish there’d been a more creative reason that this large family was living in the house. It particularly bothered me that they didn’t seem to really be renovating it. There were repairs being made. But the house overall wasn’t in much disrepair and they didn’t seem to be remodeling. I can let it pass, but it just seemed slightly cliche. And was the family rich? They managed to keep this mansion for something like 30 years, while still moving on with their lives. What annoyed me probably the most was how much denial some of the children seemed to be in regarding the strange happenings with the house. There are also a couple of strange side stories I won’t go into that seemed very cliche to me. But those aren’t numerous or significant. And finally there was one strange plot point near the end that was totally unbelievable to me even for a horror story.
All in all though, this might be the best series yet on Netflix (sorry Stranger Things fans). But again, I love haunted house stories.
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