Adapted from the novel by Shirley Jackson, hill house tells the story of five siblings who grow up in the same infamously haunted house. It’s a horror series that’s all about family, grief, and loss, and it’s a lot more than your average Halloween-themed flick.
The show’s main characters are the Crain family, last known owners of Hill House: Patriarch Hugh (Henry Thomas as an adult, Timothy Hutton as an elder), and his wife Olivia (Carla Gugino). Their children Steven (Michiel Huisman), mortician Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser), drug addict Luke (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), hedonist Theodora (Kate Siegel), and twins Nell and Luke (Violet McGraw and Julian Hilliard).
As an audience, we don’t know much about their pasts or present lives. Instead, we get flashbacks to their childhoods when they lived at Hill House and to happier times in their lives. The show’s alternating future/past plotlines and the way it plays with time are an excellent example of how this series uses storytelling to highlight its themes.
Early on, the future and past storylines are reset for each episode; we’re taken to a moment in their lives when they were younger and to a final night they spent at Hill House. This allows the series to set up a future that’s ominously dark and haunted, a past that was happy and carefree, and a future that is brimming with potential danger.
One of the key things that ties together all of these moments is the way that the ghosts at Hill House affect everyone in their lives. In particular, Eleanor has a particularly strong connection to the place because of her mother’s death and her own reluctance to return to her life. She begins to feel a sense of connection with the other people in Hill House, and she thinks she can see them and hear them.
But she also has a fear of the place and its evil. She’s especially afraid of the bent-neck lady that appears at Nell’s bedside. It’s an apparition she hasn’t seen in years, yet it feels like it could be the most terrifying of all her Hill House encounters.
It’s only when she reaches the age that she’s most susceptible to the house’s powers, however, that she starts to have a deep connection with it and to understand what it can do. Her mother’s death was the catalyst for this onset of fear, and when Eleanor begins to feel that she can see the others and hear them, that she becomes completely absorbed in the house.
She’s not even sure if it’s all in her head or if she’s really feeling them, but when she’s able to feel the others, she begins to realize how much they have affected her and her life.
The show’s first few episodes are full of scary scenes, but they often lack the ominous quality that the later episodes are so good at providing. For instance, the Bent-Neck Lady is a bit too easy to recognize, and certain sequences juxtapose the pristine interiors of Hill House with a creepier and much more broken-down version of the same space that’s never quite as eerie or unsettling as the other versions. It’s not until episode six, when we visit Shirley’s funeral home, that Hill House truly becomes a place of fear and horror. hill house condo