30 Nov 2018

Review + Showtime #3 - The Haunting of Hill House

Title: The Haunting of Hill House

Author: Shirley Jackson


Four seekers have arrived at the rambling old pile known as Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of psychic phenomena; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Luke, the adventurous future inheritor of the estate; and Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman with a dark past. As they begin to cope with chilling, even horrifying occurrences beyond their control or understanding, they cannot possibly know what lies ahead. For Hill House is gathering its powers - and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

My Thoughts: 

I half wish I could have read this book not having read or watched anything featuring a house full of ghosts before. The Haunting of Hill House is the ultimate haunting house story, it chills to the bone with simple classic elements of horror that you think you're already tired of until you read this novel.

"Certainly there are spots which inevitably attach to themselves an atmosphere of holiness and goodness; it might not then be too fanciful to say that some houses are born bad."

Dr Montague has a mission: he wants not only to experience the supernatural, but to record it; prove its existence scientifically. He seeks for the perfect spot to conduct his experiments and one day he hears of Hill House... Eleanor and Theodora receive a letter from him; a letter from a stranger, inviting them to a house without a soul. Of course they are all unaware how the little vacation will transform them. Luke, the future owner of the house joins them too, and together they soon stand to face the morbid secrets of Hill House.

To be honest it's not the ghostly activities that are scary here, more like the atmosphere itself. Yes, there are doors closing without anyone holding the handle, there are bangings on the doors/walls, a phantom hand holding the hand of a character in the dark etc... but these all become really scary because Shirley Jackson had such a talent to set a tone for a horror book. This novel put me in a mood, it turned me uneasy, after reading a big chunk of it I turned positively grumpy for the day. This book had power over me and that is what made it really frightening.

I would have enjoyed to read more about the backstory of the house. Dr. Montague summarized it, but there wasn't much elaboration and I think it would have been worth it to linger there more. I guess Ms Jackson wanted to keep the house in a mysterious light by focusing more on the haunted rather than on the ones who did the haunting. 

The real protagonist of the piece is Eleanor, who has just lost her mother after taking care of her throughout a long illness. The dynamics of Eleanor's relationship with Theo is one that is worth paying attention to. Eleanor had basically been shut in with her mother, looking after her every need, she'd been a slave to her task and never had the chance to be free, to enjoy life, to get away. She's looking forward to experience freedom in Hill House for the first time. Theo soon transforms into a mother figure to her that she starts to despise and since the house latches onto all kinds of weakness she slowly becomes a target...

The Haunting of Hill House is a must read for horror fans, don't shy away, you know you want to read it!

The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix

I confess I picked up the book for the sake of the tv show, since I was very curious about it when it came out in October. As almost always, the book was better. Why?

I immensely enjoyed the tv show up until the very last episode, when unfortunately everything that had been carefully built up by the writers crumbled into tiny sad pieces.

In the show creative liberty was taken on a large scale, since the creators only grabbed the haunted house from the original story and planted a family in it. Five kids and their parents spend a summer in Hill House and they come to regret it for the rest of their lives.

I liked that they operated with two timelines; we see scenes of the kids in the house and scenes where they are grown up, where they try to juggle their lives with all the residue of Hill House in it.

Unlike in the book, here we can see actual ghosts (I think that happened in the novel maybe once), screaming, ugly, angry, sad ghosts, of which if one appeared in my bedroom at night, I'd probably die of fright. There are quite a few jump scares on the way, which is a bit boring, but they don't overdo it at least.

It was great to watch the show right after reading the book, because they used the original text often and creatively. I understood all the references and could take away more than someone who watches the show without knowing the book I think.

Out of all the episodes I'd highlight episode 6, Two Storms. It was beautifully done, there were only 5 scenes in the 57 minute episode, the longest went on for 16 minutes without a single cut! Once they changed set without cutting. It was truly amazing.

And now that you see that altogehter I liked the show, let me tell you why I was ultimately disappointed. I'm afraid this will be mildly spoilery. I won't tell you any detials of what happened, only that the tone changed, but if you plan on watching the show you might not want to read on.

Guys, the most important message of the book was that the house was EVIL. What we've been fed for 9 episodes in the show was that the house was EVIL. How it should be. Because it is Hill House. However, in the last episode in the show they chose to shed light on an advantage in the house. They suggest it can be used for good purposes. They suggest there is GOOD in it!


I completely lost it there, I really did. Then came all the cheesy bullshit that love solves everything and if we care for each other nothing bad can touch us. It's a shame they let this carefully constructed piece go out with such a flat and overused message in the end. I was truly said that the ending wasn't better.

Having said this, I still think this show is worth a watch (except for anyone who feels suicidal. I'm serious, please don't watch it if you're suicidal). If you're after a good horror show and you're willing to put up with a mild ending, go for it.

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