Well, it's the end of October and nearly Halloween, so you know what that means, don't you?
Egging your car and blaming it on the neighborhood kids who are pissed that you only hand out that shitty orange and black-wrapped candy?
What? No... Wait? That's been YOU this whole time? I got that one Fitzscott troublemaker sent to juvie for that!
Well, he was a dick.
He killed himself while he was in there!... Oh shit, I should really stop dictating this. This could be incriminating to all parties involved.
So what DOES the fact that it's nearly Halloween mean then?
Oh, it means that it's time to start watching scary shit. Movies and TV shows and such.
This past week Cupcake and I watched John Carpenter's The Thing, the newest season of Castlevania, and the new Netflix show starring a bunch of nobodies and Carla Gugino, The Haunting of Hill House.
I'd been trying to get Cupcake to watch The Thing for years, and she loved it (but thought the practical effects were a bit dated), Castlevania was a ton of fun again (with a couple of fantastic battles), and, well, I'm here to tell you everything about The Haunting of Hill House right now.
If you thought that the first season of American Horror Story (the Murder-House one) was the best ghost story that we'd ever see in televised form, well, you are now 100% wrong. The Haunting of Hill House takes all the good parts of "Murder House" and then adds LIKEABLE CHARACTERS to the mix.
You're talking crazy! Is that even allowed in a horror show?
Apparently it is! I found that I sympathized with and actually LIKED every main character in this series. And there are seven. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First let me back up and talk about the plot.
You mean there's more to the plot than simply "A family moves into a haunted house and gets terrorized by specters"?
Uh, well... A little bit more, yes. So we meet the Crain family in two time periods: the early nineties and then again in the present. Father Hugh, mother Olivia, oldest son Steve, oldest daughter Shirley, middle child Theodora, and then the twins, Eleanor (Nelly) and Luke.
In the early 90s, Hugh and Olivia buy the mansion-in-the-woods known as Hill House for a bargain with the plan of moving the family in for the summer while Hugh renovates the old brick and stone building with the hope of flipping it for a major profit, thusly making his family's financial standings secure for the rest of their lives. Too bad the place is haunted by some really mean and fucked-up spirits.
Mixed in with the tale of Hugh and his family living in a haunted, gloomy, creepy, ooky, and spooky manor-home, we see what has become of those who survived that summer all those years ago, and how Hill House continues to keep its claws in them, trying to drag them back to its deathly hallowed halls in order to finish the job of either making them go crazy or straight-up kill them.
Yeah, that sounds like every other haunted house series/movie/book ever made. Didn't Stephen King write like three or four novels about this very thing?
Maybe, just not with this much style and panache! Or this much feeling! Hand to god, this was one of the most emotionally-charged roller coasters I've found myself on in quite a while. I grew to love this cast, and it terrified me to think that any of these children could die at any moment in this show.
Not that this is a slasher series; it's actually got a rather small body count for something this foreboding and dark (both visually and metaphorically dark). But The Haunting of Hill House's tone makes you think that anyone and everyone could be spookily murdered in any given scene. This is a fantastic thing for it to pull off, especially when there are so few cheap jump scares in this thing. And I'd even argue that the jump scares that do occur aren't even cheap, they're earned.
So, it's not cheap, it's dark, it's scary, and it made you feel emotions (ick!)? That still doesn't make it sound any different from half the haunted mansion stuff we've seen since the beginning of time.
Well, if you're going to get upset at a haunted house story having familiar tropes (like it having ghosts in an old house that scare and fuck with the living), that's like getting mad at a Godzilla movie for having a giant dinosaur blow up shit and stomp on a city. There's just certain things that need to be in a story about a building that has ghosts living in it.
And the stuff that The Haunting of Hill House does differently and makes its own far out weigh the parts that are about an old abode messing with a family that lives within its walls.
Okay, okay. So how many ghosts live in Hill House?
That might be a spoiler, but I would like to point out that other than the macabre stuff that the Crain family personally sees, there are dozens upon dozens of shots where a character will walk down a hall and the camera will pan with them, and there'll be a ghost hidden in the shadows. You really need to watch this entire series at least twice to catch all this crazy shit. The amount of detail that the writers and directors put into this production is mind-blowing.
And once again I have to emphasize that it's the fantastic cast of characters that makes this show so great. Yeah, the two youngest kids in the nineties scenes may not be the best actors in the world, but they're cute, and they sell what they need to sell. The rest of the players are phenomenal, and I am totally amazed at how much the young versions of the characters look like the older versions, and how much they act like them. It's one thing to get two people for the same role (one younger, one older) who look alike, but it is another thing entirely to buy into the fact that this is the SAME PERSON due to both actors being on the same page.
Anything else to add? I've got to drop the kids off at the pool, if you know what I mean.
The end of episode 5, the entirety of episode 6, and then the last 10 minutes of the final ep utterly wrecked me. As the final credits rolled (and Netflix tried to push us into watching a shitty "reality" ghost story series next), I was doing everything that I could to keep from crying. This show will fuck with your mental state. It will destroy you. And you will love it for doing so.
Don't worry, children. Ghosts aren't real.
Well, I mean they ARE, and they can actually harm or kill you, but what I meant is that they're not actually "ghosts" per se. They're really aliens that were brought to our world after they died, and they were dumped into a really old volcano where their souls were freed and they all roam our planet trying to convert us all to Scientology.
Actually, that may be scarier than if they were just the spirits of resentful, evil beings who just want to fuck with us non-deadites. Oh well, the truth is the truth. Do with it as you will.
Holy shit, amigos! Now, my dad made all of creation and such, and I happen to know that ghosts only happen once in a blue moon when some poor bloke dies while reaching orgasm while reciting scripture from the Black Bible of Satan and Friends while dressed in a furry outfit (like, people who like to yiff with other weirdos, not just outfits that may be made of the pelts of some sort of dead animal), but this show really scared the stuffing out of me! And I once died and took a weekend trip to Hell! Literal Hell!
You know a story is frightening when it makes the Son of God poop his toga. That's high praise (get it?).