REVIEW: ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ is a Slow but Spooky Family Drama
It's Six Feet Under, with only one season and a haunted mansion.
I've been waiting for it for MONTHS, and it finally came out on Friday - the much-hyped, much-anticipated Haunting of Hill House on Netflix.
After watching Open House a couple of weeks ago, as well as losing interest in Orange Is The New Black, I wondered if Netflix had gotten too big for its own britches with original movies and shows.
I was wrong...until the last episode.
The family dynamic is almost a mirror image of the Fishers from Six Feet Under, except in this series, the mom dies first and the father has to carry on. There are five kids - a funeral director, a writer, a junkie, a gay doctor and, well, Nell. The youngest and the most disturbed. That's about all we get from her character.
In my opinion, there's one kid too many. It takes the entire first half of the series to explore each one of their personalities, backgrounds, and history with the house. I don't think I fully figured out who everybody was until episode five.
Still, each episode was important in its own way. It was kind of a "I know I have to learn all of this stuff to understand the series" feeling, even though I was admittedly bored for short amounts of time.
It's comforting to see a dysfunctional family, because it makes us all feel "normal." I loved the mental illness angle, until they reveal that it's NOT mental illness and the family is, in fact, being followed by ghosts.
The series jumps between flashbacks and present day, in no particular order, so pay attention. Sometimes there's captions as to WHERE and WHEN something is happening, sometimes there's not. If you don't understand something that's happened, wait an episode of two. It will be explained.
But let's be honest - we want to see the house. We want to see the ghosts. And we're all just waiting for it.
And therein lies the problem - not enough house. You want more of it - you want to see the Crain family go back to it and attack it, in present day. You don't get that until the last episode, and when it happens, it's disappointing. The show feel like it lost its footing in the finale, which sucks because you've just spent nine hours of your life, waiting for "the end." The explanation. The revenge.
And you don't get it.
I hesitate to say that the show could've been shorter by a couple of episodes; I really do believe that the story and the connection with each character, individually, was super important. So no, I don't think less is more in this case.
Every time I felt like the show was getting too serious, too dramatic, too...boring, they'd hit you with a ghost. The bent-neck lady. The tall guy with the hat. The mom, reaching out of the casket. It was like they gave you just enough to entice you to watch the next episode.
I kept having to remind myself that it's a series, not a movie. If you're in it for jump scares and gore, walk away now. The family aspect of it was unexpected and enjoyable for me, personally.
In the end, I was on my couch, bingeing it for the same reasons many other people were - it was a horror series. And it's Halloween season. I wanted to be scared, spooked, creeped out and uncomfortable. And I really don't think that I got that until halfway through the series. And even then, I was waiting for the big finale...which never came.
Final thoughts - I don't totally understand The Red Room. I don't totally understand what happened with the Dudleys (even though Mr. Dudley's speech to Hugh in the basement while they're working against the mold was one of the scariest parts for me).
But overall, I enjoyed it. It was a time commitment, it was fun and satisfying. Would I watch it again? Probably not.
I think back to every scary movie I"ve ever seen, and trust me...there's a LOT. I'm a horror movie fanatic. And I've rarely ever been satisfied with the end of a horror film. If it ends with questions, I'm bummed. If they wrap it up in a neat little bow, I'm bummed. So really, I've never been totally happy with the end of a scary movie.
Sometimes, I think you have to end it like A Quiet Place. I think it just needs to...end. With a cliffhanger. Otherwise, it could go on forever. And that's where I feel like The Haunting of Hill House went wrong - the ending was wrapped up in a neat little bow WITH questions still looming.
But, if you loved the family in Six Feet Under, if you love ghosts and haunted houses and have 10 hours to burn, I saw go for it.