This post will be first part of a new series that I am starting as 2019 rolls out. Terrifying Tuesdays is a series of blog posts about Movies/Shows that sends that chill down your spine.
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House itself, not sane, stood against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, its walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there walked alone. ”Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
The Haunting of Hill House is a novel written by Shirley Jackson considered to be one of the best Haunted House stories of all time. Mike Flanagan (The Director of movies like Oculus, Ouija: Origin of Evil and Hush) created a 10 episode series on the Novel. It is not the first time the story has been adapted. The novel was first adapted as a feature film in 1963, then in 1999. But the adaptation by Mike Flanagan Stands tall among all .
I was miffed when i first heard they were remaking the novel again and when i heard it was a series I was even more confused. Shirley Jackson’s Novel is just over 300 pages long and to make a 10 hour long mini series sounds impossible.But i was pleasantly surprised when I watched the pilot. The story is not a direct adaptation. The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix’s version) is a character study of a crumbling family, a family that is haunted by the past and the Hill house
The Haunting of Hill House explores a group of siblings who, as children, grew up in what would go on to become the most famous haunted house in the country. Now adults, and forced back together in the face of tragedy, the family must finally confront the ghosts of their past, some of which still lurk in their minds while others may actually be stalking the shadows of Hill House.
The Haunting of Hill house is one of the best Horror story i have ever witnessed. It starts as a character study and soon transforms into a gut wrenching terrifying ride that will have you binge watching; curious to know more but scared to your wits end. And it does not scare you with jump scares or other conventional ways. The chill will start unbeknownst to you, it will be just a dialogue uttered by one of the characters and it will hit you with a tour de force that you cannot imagine.
As the Episode 5 will roll you will be so entranced by the atmosphere and the story that you won’t realise until it will hit you. The climax of Episode 5 is one of the best written story climaxes i have watched. It’s bone chilling. Many people have claimed to have lost sleep, have anxiety attacks and have ‘Terror Vomit’
When Theo (one of the 5 Siblings that the story follows) remarks , “I don’t feel anything.” Or when the kids say “What if I dream that you kill us?” Its the writing and the script that makes it brilliant
Transitions and Direction
One striking aspect of Mike Flanagan’s direction that is adamant from the very first episode are the seamless transitions that he achieves from past story line to the present one (and vice-versa). The editing is brilliant. The camera smoothly moves across many doors to transition across time. But it’s the episode 6 that takes the cake.
The episode is made so as to look like it’s one long take. There are some scenes that went on for more than 15 minutes. There are scenes that run for 18 pages in the script. In an interview with the Entertainment Weekly Mike explains how they pulled off the impossible task:
“We wrote all of the camera choreography into the script for the episode, back before we started production . . . We rehearsed it with our second team stand-ins, who basically performed the entire episode as actors for about five weeks straight, every day. We had shut down production and we just rehearsed with them, with the crew, and kept running it and running it and running it. After a month of that, we brought the cast in and we were able to show them the episode. We had shot it with the second team. So we said, “Here it is and this is what we’re doing,” and then the cast had two weeks with us in rehearsal. We kind of looked at it like live TV. Ultimately, it’s five long shots and we did one a day for five days. It almost killed us. It almost killed everybody. “
Its an hour long episode that just Five scenes that took months to shoot.
Flanagan’s camera moves slow, long shots of characters in empty rooms and corridors. Through carefully considered staging and editing transitions that ping off visual or verbal cues, he creates a seamless overlap between the past and the present that mirrors how our memories actually work. An event, a thought, sound or noise or smell, however small,brings up a specific memory via association . He uses an apple or a door for transitioning across time.
Cast and Acting
Another plus point about the series is brilliant casting job. The young and old actors not only look similar but also acts similar. The whole ensemble cast provides very nuanced performances. Some scenes are exceptionally well acted. Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s portrayal of a drug addict who is trying to change is heart breaking and so is the portrayal of Theo (Both young and adult played by McKenna Grace and Kate Seigel) . The astounding character development helps a lot. But the best job was done by Carla Gugino who plays the role of disturbed Olivia Craine.
Only thing that may turn off some people is how it ends. I won’t spoil anything but I will say its a moving end and an end that many writers would shy away from.
Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House shines because of an exceptionally well written script. It is shot with style of a seasoned director and edited to perfection. Filled with ghosts (Literal and Metaphorical), you won’t be able to stop yourself from binge watching. The show deals with many themes including grief, Dysfunctional families and trauma.
Episode 1 will sweep you in. Episode 5 will send chills down your spine. It’s a masterpiece in storytelling and Episode 6 is an example of technical brilliance. And episode 10 will make you cry like a baby.
I will leave you guys with a quote from the show’s finale. Read this and then re read the first quote in the post.
Mike Flanagan, Silence Lay Steadily (Episode 10)
“Fear is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We’re here. We’re here, Clara. We made it. But so, it seems, is love. Love is the relinquishment of logic the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it. But we cannot meet it halfway. Without it, we cannot continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality. Hill House, not sane, stands against its hills holding darkness within. It has stood so for a hundred years and might stand a hundred more. Within walls continue upright bricks meet neatly floors are firm and doors are sensibly shut. Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House. And those who walk there walk together.”