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The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix) review: Masterful storytelling intertwined with genuine scares

In the horror genre, it can be rare to find quality.

In the horror genre, it can be rare to find quality. Horror is a category of film that (unfortunately) is straddled with multiple terrible releases every year. Films like Slender Man and Ouija are why so many roll their eyes at horror trailers nowadays. But sometimes there are films and television shows in the genre that reignite our love for it. This Netflix series caught my eye and then I kept getting recommendations from people saying how great it was, so I finally settled in for a good binge session and pretty soon I was hooked.

I love a storyline like this: a haunted house that has secrets within. There are so many different directions you could go with the story and so many potential twists and turns. The trick to making a series like this work is knowing what to focus on and building a proper foundation. Without that, you get the cheesy stereotypical type horror that gets parodied all the time. You can’t build a good working storyline purely on jump scares and creepy imagery. Yes, those things need to be included obviously, but characters we care about and a story that grabs you should always come first.

Since I’ve already talked about how good the character development is, I wanna talk about the marvelous actors that portray these characters we get to know so well. Carla Gugino (San Andreas, Gerald’s Game) is very good here as Olivia, the mother of the family. Gugino had to really stick the landing with her performance because a lot of the story hinges on events that happen with her character. Timothy Hutton and Henry Thomas are both great as the father – Hutton in particular. I loved the damaged emotionally raw energy he brought to a lot of the scenes involving him and his kids.

The adult versions of the kids are well cast. Victoria Pedretti (who’s a newcomer) plays Nell, who has the most consequences put on her out of all the kids, and she really captures all the right emotions needed for this extremely disturbed character. I was also very impressed by Elizabeth Reaser (Twilight, Ouija: Origin of Evil) . I wasn’t completely sure whether or not I would like her because I hadn’t seen a lot of her acting as she played a background character in the Twilight saga and wasn’t really given the opportunity to showcase her talent. Here, Reaser is given that opportunity and she really shines bright and goes the extra mile in portraying realness. There’s nothing wooden or fake here.

Kate Seigel is another one who just really blew me away in terms of representing her character. She really brings the necessary components and flaws forward. Oliver Jackson-Cohen was a great choice for Luke. Michiel Huisman was good, I think he had the look down, although I will say that I think he was the weakest amongst the cast. Which is not to say his performance was weak, but I did feel that the others did a better job at selling it.The production value is great here. There are very nice visuals and an atmosphere that works. The imagery that this series puts forth is truly terrifying at times, the kind of stuff that does stay in your head which is a great asset because so much of this genre consists of bad CGI and cheap thrills. So if you’re wondering whether this series really nails the creep factor, I can assure you that yes it does. The scares and the spirits that end up haunting certain characters throughout the series are very well thought out, and what I love the most about them is that they’re explained and we’re actually given clever answers as to why these specific things are haunting specific people.

In conclusion, The Haunting of Hill House really does, I believe, have something for everyone. It has genuine scares that are both effective and clever and it also tells a really interesting story by investing us in these characters. I highly suggest this as binge worthy material.

The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)
Is it good?
The Haunting of Hill House ends up being a winner not only because of the genuinely effective scares, but also because of it's well written characters and storytelling.
Great performances by every cast member
Extremely well developed characters
Genuinely frightening scares
Clever/Interesting storytelling
Good use of diversity (both LGBTQ and multi racial representation)
A few select scenes last a bit too long
8
Good
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