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The Haunting of Hill House (2018)

Paramount Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/15/2019

All Ratings out of

Show: 1/2




Review by Stephanie Long, Posted on 10/17/2019

Have you ever had a friend or co-worker gush about how funny or scary or kick-ass a movie is only to finally see this well-loved movie and feel totally let down?  You watch that same movie or show that was recommended, and you begin to question yourself as to what you may be missing? Like, what movie/show did they see?  Are they pulling your leg because what you watched was nothing like what they described?  Should you be worried that person has lost it because they are so wrong?  It has happened to all of us before, so I am going to try to be very careful in this review because I don’t want to lavishly praise the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House only to let readers down when they actually see it, but honestly, this series is beyond good. 

The Haunting of Hill House shares the story of the Crain family.  Mom Olivia (Carla Gugino) and dad Hugh (Henry Thomas and Timothy Hutton as an older version) have bought a magnificent uncared-for mansion to flip.  They have five children, Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser- older Shirley and Lulu Wilson-younger), Steven (Michiel Huiman and Paxton Singleton), Theo (Kate Siegel- the director’s wife and McKenna Grace), and twins Luke (Oliver Jackson-Cohenand Julian Hillard) and Nell (Victoria Pedretti and Violet McGraw).  However, despite how hopeful the family is to flip this house, they are unexpectedly confronted with ghosts and scary events within the walls of the new home.  Events so unsettling that it scars each member of the family into their present lives.  As the show progresses past the initial episode, each child gets their own story from past to present explained through the first five episodes while the overall story of what happened to all of them as a family, and if as a family they can survive the haunting, also plays out. 

And honestly, this conceit is not that unusual anymore.  Like Lost, you have an overall story arc, and then individual episodes throughout for character development as well.  But unlike Lost, there are answers to the overall big questions, and the individual stories are really touching.  Especially Nell’s story in episode 5- “The Bent-Neck Lady”.  This story is argueably the best written, acted, and directed of all of the episodes.  A lot of attention has been directed toward the sixth episode- “Two Storms”, and rightly so as most of the episode is composed of extremely long shots that go uncut and highlight how talented the actors and director really are, but there is something so sad and sweet about Nell’s story that it will resonate well after the episode ends.  Series creator and director Mike Flannagan has taken Shirley Jackson’s well-loved book The Haunting of Hill House and turned it into a perfect mix of a family drama and mystery in which the horror aspects are both literal and figurative.

As someone who watches horror movies fairly regularly (they are my spouse’s favorite genre), not much really scares me.  The Haunting of Hill House does not try to be in your face with most of its’ scares.  Instead, it is the sense of dread and suspense, punctuated in each episode with background ghosts that causes the viewer to always feel a slight discomfort and apprehension as to what will happen next.  The family is so endearing, the characters so genuine and likeable flaws and all, that I have seen the series all the way through three times, and each time, not only do I pick up on subtle subtexts and plot points, but my heart races as I look for who is lurking in the background of the family drama.  I always admire any form of entertainment that looks as if a lot of work has gone into the production, and this series leaves much to be admired.  Care is given to every aspect, and that is what helps this series become better upon each viewing of the series.  It is "scary" how good it is.

The Haunting of Hill House has a scene which looks like it was lifted from Silent Hill on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment.  The three-disc set contains all ten episodes of the series.  The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Discs contain an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps.  The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials.  This is a very dark show, but the action is always visible here and the black tones look true.  The colors look good, most notably the many splashes of red we get here.  The depth works quit well and the level of detail is impressive.  This certainly rivals the HD stream from Netfilx, with the image losing some of the overly dark moments experienced with the stream.  The Discs carry a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.6 Mbps.  The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  Despite the relatively low bitrate, the track delivers solid subwoofer effects during the “shock” sequences.  We also get impressive surround sound effects which help to illuminate voices and sounds coming from around the house.  These fill the rear and front channels, providing a real sense of space.

The Haunting of Hill House Blu-ray Disc release contains only a few extra features.  Viewers have the option of selecting “Extended Director’s Cuts” of the episodes “Steven Sees a Ghost”, “The Bent-Neck Lady”, and “Silence Lay Steadily”.  All of these are accompanied by AUDIO COMMENTARY from Michael Flanagan.  In addition, Flanagan also provides COMMENTARY for the episode “Two Storms”, but it is not an extended cut.

Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long