- The renowned horror author Stephen King on Tuesday called Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House” TV series “close to a work of genius.”
- The horror series is a surprisingly emotional family drama and one of Netflix’s best original shows.
- Its director, Mike Flanagan (“Gerald’s Game”), creates a creepy mood throughout the series that leaves the viewer in suspense.
- The show’s true horror beyond ghosts, though, comes from our real-life, human fears.
The renowned horror author Stephen King has high praise for Netflix’s new horror series, “The Haunting of Hill House,” which debuted on the streaming service on Friday.
In a tweet on Tuesday, the writer of classic novels in the genre like “The Shining” and “It” described the series as “close to a work of genius.”
“I don’t usually care for this kind of revisionism, but this is great,” King said. “Close to a work of genius, really. I think Shirley Jackson would approve, but who knows for sure.”
We can’t help but agree with King, as have many other critics. (The series has a 90% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes.) “The Haunting of Hill House” is one of Netflix’s best original series.
Some of the best horror movies are also engaging family dramas. A recent example is this year’s “Hereditary,” which its director, Ari Aster, has described as “a family tragedy that curdles into a nightmare.”
“The Haunting of Hill House” could also be described that way. It takes the concept and expands it over 10 serialized TV episodes. Not only is the show a chilling horror series, but it’s an emotional story of a family being torn apart – often by the supernatural forces at work against them, but also by their own faults.
The series, loosely based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson, follows the Crain family in their present lives and in the past, when they lived in the haunted Hill House for a summer. Olivia (played by Carla Gugino) and Hugh (played by Henry Thomas in the past and Timothy Hutton in the present) move themselves and their five kids to the house to flip it, but forces beyond their control upend their plan.
Years later, the Crains are still haunted by their past, even though they don’t want to admit it, and they spread out between the two coasts. The oldest of the five kids, Steven (Michiel Huisman), is a horror author. His sister, Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser), a funeral director, condemns him for using their family trauma to sell books and urges their siblings not to take his royalty checks.
Theo (Kate Siegel, the standout performer), a children’s psychiatrist with a mysterious gift that requires her to wear gloves at nearly all times, is living in Shirley’s guest house. The youngest, twins Luke (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and Nell (Victoria Pedretti), have a mental connection with each other, but Luke is a drug addict and Nell is still fixated on her time in the house because of a recent tragedy.
The show flashes between the present and the past, and most episodes focus on a particular family member. But it always feels integral to the story, never like a gimmick. By the end, every plot thread is addressed in a satisfying – and shocking – conclusion.
As a horror series, the show raises the bar for the genre. There are your typical jump scares, but the true horror plays out in more subtle, chilling ways, thanks to its director, Mike Flanagan, who has made a name for himself as a horror director in recent years with “Oculus,” “Hush,” “Before I Wake,” “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” and “Gerald’s Game.” He’s also attached to direct the “Shining” sequel, “Doctor Sleep.”
Flanagan sets an eerie mood to keep the viewer in suspense – and the sixth episode in particular highlights his evolution as a filmmaker – but it’s not just ghosts that make the show scary. Like any good piece of horror, “The Haunting of Hill House” exploits our most common human fears: the death of a loved one, addiction, betrayal, etc. And it does so in surprisingly emotional ways.
It’s tough to go into too much detail about the show without diving into spoilers. Some of the best parts involve revelations I didn’t see coming. That’s why that will be a massive hit that people will be talking about, and not just because it makes for a perfect Halloween binge.
“The Haunting of Hill House” is now available to stream on Netflix.
Watch the trailer below:
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