Hill House, the spooky reimagining of Shirley Jackson’s book by Mike Flanagan that’s currently on Netflix, is the kind of horror that’s sure to leave you feeling like you’ve been punched in the stomach. It’s a show that’s both terrifying and beautiful, with characters who seem genuinely vulnerable but also like they have the capacity to be powerful.
This is a haunting series that’s all about the family and how they interact with one another. We see how each of them grew up in this house, how they dealt with it as a kid and how that affected their lives now.
We see how they were raised in a different way than the rest of their peers. The youngest, Nell (Lulu Wilson), has a very specific fear of the Bent-Neck Lady that’s constantly looming over her and her siblings.
It’s a fear that’s both eerie and heartbreaking, and it feels like a constant presence in her life. She always sees it when she’s ill, but when her health improves, she starts to see it in the early morning hours.
She’s also seen it on her husband, Luke’s (Violet McGraw), nightly walk to the bathroom, and she’s even spotted it when she’s out with the kids. She thinks it’s a ghost, too.
But she has no idea that it’s her own sister, Olivia (Carla Gugino), who’s behind the haunting. When Olivia dies, it’s because she’s been possessed by a ghost that’s in Hill House, too.
That’s the same ghost that killed Steven in the first episode, too. It was a very real tragedy that happened to the Crain family when they moved into Hill House. It was an attack on their innocence that left Hugh and Olivia reeling, but that also made them all the more susceptible to whatever else Hill House has to offer.
As a result, they’re all drawn to the house and its ominous past. Then the Crain siblings all start seeing things they shouldn’t be able to, whether that’s specters in the dark, phantom bugs or rooms that don’t exist.
Theo, the oldest, seems to be the least susceptible to the ghostly influence. She picks up on things through touch, and we get the sense that she has some kind of innate psychic ability. It’s the same power that she shares with her mother, Olivia, who was able to make it rain stones when she was a child.
There are also a few other characters who seem to be influenced by Hill House. Caretakers Horace and Clara Dudley, who are not allowed to be near the house at night, have a daughter named Abigail that they keep locked up in their home on the property to protect her from the evils of Hill House.
Eleanor, meanwhile, has a difficult time navigating her feelings about Hill House. It’s a place she’s had to call home, but she still struggles with the concept of community versus solitude and confinement versus freedom.