Revisiting 'Hill House' Before My Trip to 'Bly Manor'

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    I love horror. I think that’s been established fairly well at this point. But what I really love--what I care about, at root--is a good story. Horror stories just happen to be the ones that resonate best with me; I struggle with anxiety, and narratives that deal with fear fascinate me. Sometimes, a piece of horror is effectively scary but doesn’t have a great story. Other times, it’s an interesting story, but isn’t actually very frightening.
    Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House, from the incomparable Mike Flanagan, is that rare piece of entertainment that delivers both bone-chilling frights and a deep, moving plot.
    I genuinely adore this series. If you haven’t watched it yet, you need to. Like, right away. Seriously, stop reading this and go watch The Haunting of Hill House. You won’t regret it. Also, I’ll likely talk about spoilers from here on out, so you don’t want to read on until you’ve seen the whole thing.
    Okay, all finished? Good. Pretty great, right? That last episode!
    Seriously, though, this series is a masterclass in building narrative. The way it shifts between the various siblings, feeding us backstory piece by piece, is an absolutely brilliant bit of structure. Despite there actually being very little forward progress in the show itself (most of the ‘present-day’ stuff happens over the course of, what, a week or so?), the viewer is constantly learning new things and getting new context thanks to the use of flashback and different points of view.
    The characters are all beautifully realized, as well. My personal favorite was Luke, the struggling addict of the family, whose connection to the tragic Nell catalyzed a deeply affecting character arc that felt like the true heart of the show to me. However, Theo, Steven, Shirley, and the rest of the Crain family are just as well-written and acted.
    Just as memorable as the characters are the show’s ghosts. Luke’s Bowler Hat Man stands out as a particularly frightening presence, as does the unhinged Poppy, who proves largely responsible for the traumatic events that befell the Crains. Of course, none leave as indelible an impression as the terrifying Bent-Necked Lady. The reveal of her true identity towards the end of the series was carried off brilliantly!
    In fact, there are a lot of smart plot pay-offs in the back half of the season. I was particularly floored by the revelation that the Red Room had been different for every child; this is something that completely recontextualizes several scenes on a second watch-through.
    It really can’t be overstated how phenomenal Hill House was. It’s the kind of show that I recommend everyone watch at least twice. Last week, the highly-anticipated sequel, The Haunting of Bly Manor, hit Netflix last week; I’m a few episodes in and already really liking it. Will it live up to the high standards of Hill House? It’s hard to say. Right now, I think it’s looking promising… but you’ll have to check back next week for my full thoughts on the series!
More articles and reviews by Ethan McIntyre can be found at rollwithit.blog.