I Promise You Can Handle The Haunting Of Hill House

I’m afraid you have to.

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Very mild spoilers.

Sweet Mary Mother of October—The Haunting Of Hill House is essential television. If you love Halloween, if you love horror entertainment, if you love a good scare, this is your small screen Super Bowl. Even if you hate all of these things, watch it anyway.

Netflix’s The Haunting Of Hill House lives up to the kind of hype A Star Is Born is getting. Based on the Shirley Jackson novel of course, the story follows the Crain family back and forth in time, stemming from their days living at Hill House, a structure that perhaps should have been reduced to splinters long ago. I won’t go into more details because you have Google like the rest of us.

At its core, this is just a good story. I’m a sucker for a saga about a massive family, but throw in a house that wants to eat its young and essentially a reinvention of the Room of Requirement and GIVE THESE PEOPLE THEIR EMMY.

Even if you are a hands-over-the-eyes scaredypants, you can handle this level of fear. Horror content gets a bad reputation for the jump-scares, to the point that mystery and thick plots and genuinely terrifying concepts get swept up with the cobwebs. We think of horror as cheap, as less-than noteworthy entertainment. This is a show that course-corrects.

The jump scares, stay with me, are necessary, and in no way gratuitous. You won’t know they’re coming, and you’ll be happy about it. This show doesn’t do anything peasantlike with the music and the eeriness and the dumb girls with the “Hello? Is anybody there?” bullshit. The Haunting Of Hill House puts some respect on this genre.

I think the strength of this show lies in a few things, and I say this not as a critic (because I’m so not one), but more to convince you to put down the painfully cringe-worthy reality television they’re somehow still making and watch something of substance.

  1. The family. The size of this family allows for a very layered story. There are five children, two parents, and a batshit house. We see events of just a few days at various points in time play out from seven different perspectives. We’re never shown the full story all at once, but it’s not so convoluted so as to allow the creators to not make any damn sense and get away with it. This makes damn good scary sense.
  2. The filter. The coloring of the show is essentially the color that you see when someone dies. There’s a filter over everything that happens to you, every conversation, and every memory. That’s how this is shot. You feel a little bit in mourning the whole time, and that’s okay. They’ve done really interesting stuff with light.
  3. The scary. I have been a terrified little shit when it comes to horror entertainment my entire life. Only in the last year or so have I started branching out and really falling in love with horror. There is no better show to cut your pointy vampire teeth on than this shit right here. The scares are so good they teach you that scary moments aren’t actually something to fear, but something to look forward to. It’s masterful.
  4. The house. The set for this show is terrifying. You’ll spend the show’s entirety wishing you could hang out in this place knowing full well it would lead to your unfortunate demise. You want it anyway. It’s just one more creepy beckoning finger reaching out from The Haunting Of Hill House’s sublime beauty.

To conclude, please watch this show. Regardless of your level of interest in horror entertainment, it is massively worth your time. But maybe even more so if you don’t like being scared. This is a show that will teach you how wrong you’ve been, and will teach you to love scary stories. It’s giving us a gift that movies and TV that just want to make horror aficionados shit their pants have ignorantly overlooked for years. There is art to scary, and the creators of The Haunting Of Hill House wield one hell of a brush. An accomplishment so good, it’s scary.

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NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

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