The Pitch: Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is one of the few horror stories that’s held in the same regard as A Farewell to Arms, The Catcher in the Rye, or even The Great Gatsby. Since its 1959 publication, the gothic novel has influenced heavyweights such as Master of Horror Stephen King and has been adapted for the screen to exceptional (1963’s The Haunting) and not-so-exceptional results (1999’s The Haunting). Now, director Mike Flanagan takes a crack at the story by expanding the source material into this era’s most popular narrative medium: a television series.

Back in the Crain Gang: Unlike the original novel, which centers around four eclectic intellectuals attempting to prove the existence of the supernatural over one spooky summer, Flanagan’s take follows an unsuspecting family renovating the titular house. As such, it’s a liberal adaptation, though Flanagan carries over the names, character quirks, themes, motifs, and scares in a multitude of clever ways. The most obvious nod is the family’s namesake, the Crains, who fans of the novel will recognize as the enigmatic architect of the nearly century-old house itself. Spoiler: They’re just as creepy.

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The Haunting of Hill House, Netflix

Yet all of their darkness stems from the house itself. Similar to the novel, psychology factors heavily into the story — and by proxy, the terror — leading each of the family members down various rabbit holes. Flanagan uses that to his advantage, welding the past and the present in ways that keep us interested and the characters interesting. The five children — Shirley, Luke, Theo, Eleanor, and Steven — and their two parents — Hugh and Olivia — all provide jagged pieces to the ensuing puzzle as Flanagan dedicates an episode to each of them. You know, like chapters in a book.

Here’s the thing, though: Each piece is always at the mercy of perception, which not only makes for an addicting narrative…

This Article was written by Michael Roffman

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