A modern reimagining of the ’50s novel by Shirley Jackson, hill house follows five adult siblings who have paranormal experiences during childhood that continue to haunt them decades later. They’re forced to confront the ghosts of their past as they return to the eponymous mansion that started it all.
The Crains move into Hill House in the early ’90s as a family of five with the intention of flipping it and building their “forever house.” Hugh (Henry Thomas) and Olivia (Carla Gugino) are devoted parents who love their children; they are also dreamy free spirits, but the children are more frightened of Hill House than their parents are, seeing its evils more clearly: specters in the dark, phantom bugs, rooms that shouldn’t exist.
Their fears are exacerbated by the traumatic events that happened at Hill House, including the death of their mother Nell. As the show progresses, their fears grow in size, and as their grief reaches a boiling point, the ghosts of Hill House become a part of their everyday lives.
It’s no surprise, then, that the series is a work of horror fiction. Writer Mike Flanagan, who’s a veteran of the genre, has assembled a cast that brings the hauntings of Hill House to life. But while they all do a solid job, some of their performances feel strained and uneven, and the writing can be sloppy at times.
Luke, the youngest of the Crain siblings, is a drug addict who suffers from memories of Hill House that he uses to escape his life. He has a difficult time with his mother’s madness, and he turns to drugs for comfort. He and his twin brother, Theo (Julien Hilliard), are the show’s most troubled characters.
They’re also among the most haunted, as are their older siblings Steven (Michiel Huisman), Shirley (Lulu Wilson), and Theodora (Mckenna Grace). Their paranormal experiences are especially strong, as is their reluctance to leave Hill House.
Those who’ve read the book will know that the name “Nell” is a nod to Nell Vance, who lived at Hill House for years before becoming one of its most feared ghosts. Her name is a constant reminder of the dangers of living in a place where ghosts are a part of the fabric.
Eleanor, the second of the Crain sisters, is particularly haunted by the spirit of a woman who lived in Hill House for most of her life. She calls her spirit the Bent-Neck Lady, and as an adult, she’s still haunted by her presence.
She’s also a psychic, and her powers are so great that she can communicate with the ghosts of Hill House. She can sense their moods, see their thoughts and feelings, and sense when they are about to do something dangerous or even deadly.
She’s a bit of a wild child, and her impulsiveness isn’t always the best thing for her, but she also embodies Jackson’s vision of the family’s house as a kind of magnifying glass for human frailty. She’s a good example of the sort of person who should have stayed away from Hill House in the first place, as she’s prone to self-destructive behavior and tends to overindulge in alcohol and drugs. But she’s also an important character, a person who helps bring the siblings together as a unit, and a character who makes an incredibly poignant scene near the end of the series. hill house condo