Rich in storytelling & character development, technically-diverse, & compelling in atmospheric supernatural intrigue with tons of bone-rattling scares, but a bit disappointingly ended, T.H.O.H.H. is an overall-fantastic Netflix project. 9.2/10.
Plot Synopsis: This modern reimagining of the Shirley Jackson novel follows siblings who, as children, grew up in what would go on to become the most famous haunted house in the country.. Now adults, they are forced back together in the face of tragedy and must finally confront the ghosts of their past. Some of those ghosts still lurk in their minds, while others may actually be stalking the shadows of Hill House. The ensemble cast includes Oscar winner Timothy Hutton, Carla Gugino and Henry Thomas. Mike Flanagan, a veteran of the horror genre, created the series.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
Review: This isn’t your everyday ghost story. Building old-world atmospheric supernatural intrigue & rich ghost-centric storytelling in ways thoroughly unseen in modern horror, THOHH is one of Netflix’s strongest new projects. The character development and writing is sublime, introducing and psycho-analyzing each member of the family with backstory vignettes letting you truly feel like you know and are invested in their fate. Even more intriguing is the plot structure telling the story forwards, backwards, and both simultaneously so that you have to really work to piece together the mystery of what you see transpiring in the house, only for some of the reveals and episodes (Ep. 5 & 6 being two of the best TV episodes of the year) to leave you stunned when explained/revealed, as well as the technical proficiency displayed in even often-overlooked details like the camerawork using long-takes that even further highlight the pedigree of the cast (Carla Gugino far and away the MVP) & craftsmanship of the filmmakers. There are problems, like a lack of scariness if you, like me, came due to people hyping it up to be “unwatchably scary,” which just isn’t true.. more of a mystery series than horror, and a disappointing ending leaving so much of the limitless potential and horror possibilities (as well as promises/teases it made early on..) on the table abandoned. However, overall, Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House is a captivating and expertly-crafted TV series with moments of genuine brilliance that stands, warts and all, as one of their boldest, most compelling, and complete original series. 8.5/10.
Positives: Chilling cinematography and dimly-lit shots instantly setting the unmistakeable tone from the opening shot, beautiful theme and artful opening credits, STRONG pedigree acting and direction – this isn’t your kiddie horror/supernatural series and that’s clear right from the first sharing of the Irene’s dead husband wall-stare, intriguing structure telling the story in two parts and two time periods simultaneously of hill house, wowingly innovative scares like Nell waking up to find a ghost figure staring right back at her from inches away, good character development, strong acting and wowing character writing & development – becoming invested in characters here is an understatement as the structure and talent here is undeniably impressive, when it does give glimpses of horror turning what you’re most comfortable with and should be off limits in family into an object for horror is good, starts off slow in unfolding the mystery and giving each character an entire episode of backstory but man does it pay off in the UNBELIEVABLE episode Bent-Neck Lady with one of the most shocking twists and reveals I’ve ever seen in TV – masterpiece, the plot structure is ground-breaking telling the story backwards, forwards, and all sorts of jumbled up ways spinning around so the viewer has no idea what to expect but oh man does it pay off in the reveal as you’re left jaw on the floor wondering what happens, although it isn’t too scary at first – it gets increasingly horrifying as more is revealed at just how sly, cunning, and evil hill house is using the guyse of what you know and trust as mere pawns in its dark schemes – and even *SPOILER* how twisted it is to have you be *SPOILER* your own ghost and drive to suicide *SPOILER*, technically-proficient camerawork with noticeable tricks and attention to craft with things like long takes and chasing shots – that also highlight how strong the acting is that they’re able to go that long without a single mess-up like episode 6 that has some long-takes that last seemingly 15 minutes and are an impressive cinematic achievement, REALLY hits its stride in Bent-Neck Lady and Two Storms ep 5-6 delivering two of the greatest tv episodes I’ve ever seen, phenomenal acting led by Carla Gugino my gosh what a performance – performance of her career I think
Negatives: Slow start and shaky pacing throughout its first few episodes – also missed a perfect opportunity for the modern trend of horror to start with a tone-setting series summary scare that’s not there, although it has moments of scariness and hard-hitting mystery reveals – it’s not really that scary and definitely (unfortunately) hurt by the hype surrounding it of people saying it’s unwatchably scary which just isn’t true – more mystery than horror, stumbles to a finish – such a let-down after a breathtaking middle act and all the potential it had to be a truly evil house supernatural ghost horror but ending Carla’s of trying to just *SPOILER* rat poison only the two youngest is pretty lame and like a bad take on The Shining not nearly as scary and thus not inventive or big scale – also having her not have any ghost possession or extra powers is an extreme waste and makes the final reveal tremendously underwhelming and commonplace – tons of parents have tried to off their kids (unfortunate but true).. but they didn’t need a haunted house to do so and waste it,.. disappointing soft decision to go with a happy ending – yes it is good storytelling but seemingly all of the interesting ghost or horror shreds have been wiped clean with a smile here even Nellie – and that’s not what was advertised and I feel a bit cheated – don’t go to a horror/mystery show needing a happy ending, let’s recap all the ways it faltered in its ending and all the potential it left out the door – the mother wasn’t possessed or ghost-ified – just having a random dissociative episode you can find all over the country happening without the need for a played-up haunted house guise – and like a bad remake of what’s already been done better in every conceivable way without buckling on its horror decades ago in The Shining, there was only ONE real victim in the season – Nellie and it’s thoroughly breaking she had such a spectacular and horrorful death made ~meaningless her being the only one (already knew the mother was gone from the beginning) to get offed, house didn’t really do anything scary or have its ghosts acting in macabre ways – they even teased some strikingly phenomenal storylines they could’ve done in the reveals in the finale like having the wife, drug addict friend, etc. not even be real but ghosts the house was using like pawns to keep an eye on them until the time was right since they were the family who got away – or more supernatural intrigue like was teased in the beginning, like 30 ghosts never explained, house backstory never explained – WHY is it haunted or have this supernatural presence or why is it doing these things, and what happens to them while they’re there – would’ve been chilling to have to haunt yourself like Nellie’s reveal but what about the others and why not more elaborated on with at least one more victim, why such a borderline-cheesy happy ending.. in a HORROR (what it was being advertised as and hyped) series – just unfathomably disappointing ending
Official CLC Score: 9.2/10