Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House is a haunted-house fable that deftly explores the effects of trauma on the members of a family. The show, which is based on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel of the same name, follows siblings who, as children, moved into a house with a history of paranormal activity. Now adults, they’re reunited after tragedy, and find themselves struggling to make sense of the unsettling events they experienced while growing up in Hill House.
The Haunting of Hill House has an enduring appeal among horror fans, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s not just a frightening and well-executed story; it also speaks to something more than the fear of ghosts. The series examines the impact of trauma on people’s lives, and how it can linger even after the original event is long forgotten.
In The Haunting of Hill House, each member of the Crain family is struggling with their own issues. Some are more susceptible to the supernatural than others, and each person tries to resolve their grief in different ways. The family has a tendency to stray from logic and order, which often leads them to succumb to the dark side.
Eleanor is the only one of the Crain children who isn’t susceptible to the ghosts that occupy Hill House. She’s the quietest and most reserved, but when she encounters her mother Nell in her home, her reaction to the presence is reminiscent of how people feel after the death of a loved one. She carries her anger in a different way, too, and it’s not uncommon for a person to latch onto objects when they’re going through grief.
She also has an obsession with her deceased mother’s funeral parlor. In one episode, she spends an extended amount of time in the room, which is referred to as “The Red Room” by her sister Shirley. It’s a place she believes she was never allowed to enter as a child, and it’s where she and Luke discover their father has been locked inside.
The Red Room is where a lot of the paranormal activities happen in the show. It’s also where the Crain family reunites to try to save their father, Luke. He’s been under the influence of a drug and has been unable to stop trying to burn Hill House down.
It’s a terrifying scene. But it’s also one that feels cathartic. The Crain family’s collective pain and anxiety is laid bare in this final hour, and it’s a gut-wrenchingly beautiful display of empathy.
What’s most striking about The Haunting of Hill House is that it doesn’t treat its haunted-house metaphor with the same air of skepticism or disbelief as so many other paranormal shows, which tend to gloss over the details of haunting and instead focus on what they see and hear. It’s a surprisingly personal exploration of grief and loss, and it shows how even the most logical-minded people can lose their grip on reality when they’re hurting.