*Contains some spoilers for The Haunting of Hill House
Black Mirror delves into the fear of technology. The Walking Dead imagines a nightmare where the dead come back to life. American Horror Story pokes at the lizard parts of our brain that fear the unknown. The horror genre is everywhere in pop culture, and no genre quite reflects the state of our world like horror does. Horror takes the things that scare us the most and forces us to face them. Perhaps it’s just human nature to want to slay our demons. In the new Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House, the Crain family must do just that, or lose themselves completely to the void. Based on the famous novel by Shirley Jackson, the mother of modern horror, the series takes some serious detours from the source work, and it’s to the show’s benefit. The Crain family, parents Hugh and Olivia, and their five kids, Steve, Shirley, Theodora, Luke, and Nell, spend a terrifying summer in a haunted house in 1992. The experience has wounded them all in some way. When youngest daughter Nell is discovered dead in the house (across the country from her home in LA) the family is forced to face each other and take action. In the same way that The Walking Dead’s first season was a game-changer for the genre, The Haunting of Hill House is much more than a ghost story. It’s a family drama wrapped in the supernatural. Here are six reasons why you should binge the heck out of Hill House.
1. It’s just that good. The combination of exemplary acting, keen direction from Mike Flanagan, and a wonderful script make this not only a standout in the horror genre, but a stand out, period.
2. One of the leading characters is a lesbian. Theo Crain – middle child in the family -likes the ladies and has a complicated romance during the season.
3. Theo is one of the most interesting and complex lesbian characters on television. Theo is one of the Crain kids with a special gift. Since childhood, Theo has been an empath that can see and feel things that she touches. This gift and curse has forced her to wear gloves her whole life just to stop the onslaught of feelings and prevented her from really connecting with someone outside of her family. Theo is also a child psychiatrist who uses her gift to help kids in a way few can. Full of anger, intelligence and compassion, Theo is fascinating to watch, and episode three is where she really gets a chance to shine.
4. It doesn’t lean on modern tropes like torture porn and sexual assault. Too many times, horror series uses rape as a way to frighten and alarm us. (See American Horror Story which has used sexual assault in nearly all of its seasons.) Child abuse is touched on in Theo’s episode, but we never see anything and it’s dealt with swiftly and powerfully.
5. It’s scary in the best way. There is little gore in Hill House, and the show doesn’t need to rely on that to be truly scary. You will jump out of your seat a few times, but the show will also have you thinking and putting together puzzle pieces in your head.
6. The cast is top notch. Hill House scored in the casting department in particular with Elizabeth Reaser, who plays eldest daughter and mortician, Shirley. Kate Siegel (Theo) and newcomer Victoria Perdretti (Nell) are also terrific, as is the always excellent Carla Gugino as the Crain matriarch, Olivia. Annabeth Gish does some lovely work as supporting character, Mrs. Dudley, the Crain’s housekeeper.
The Haunting of Hill House is available on Netflix now.