tv review · Uncategorized

TV Review: The Haunting of Hill House

Image result for the haunting of hill house netflix

Title: The Haunting of Hill House

Director: Mike Flanagan

Based on the book: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Season: 1

Episodes: 10, ~42-71 minutes each

Rating: A-

 

I am so happy I found The Haunting of Hill House. I sincerely wish all horror was made this way and it really proves not only how versatile horror is but also why I love the TV form more than movies. I read the book this show was based on a while ago so I had forgotten a lot of what happened but from reviews I’ve read I understand that the show differentiates significantly from the book. In the show, the story follows 5 siblings of the Crain family in their adulthood as they cope with the aftermath of their childhood at Hill House. Their childhood was filled with strange occurrences and mysterious sightings of evil ghosts. On their last day at the Victorian Hill House, they left with the father in a hurry, only knowing their mother had died. As the story continues, it is revealed through flashback what exactly happened or didn’t happen all those years ago.

The first reason this show is so awesome is the way that jump scares are placed. They are placed in moments after achingly slow buildup and slow camera pans across dark rooms, ratcheting up the suspense and tension from one episode to the next. Funnily enough, the camera basically shows you what the scare is going to be but the real scare comes when you look back again and find the person or  the ghost is not what you thought it was at first glance. This, of course, makes the scare even more psychologically scary as the show does not rely on the violent or absurdly grotesque to tease out scares. In fact the real scares are whether or not these ghosts are the manifestations of the siblings’ inner demons. In fact, it is a relatively slow moving show taking the time to slowly lay down the important pieces of character and story over putting scares down. It is still perfectly paced and the cinematography is so masterfully slow and deliciously tense.

As Steven Crain states, “a ghost can be a lot of things. A memory, a daydream, a secret. Grief, anger, guilt. But, in my experience, most times they’re just what we want to see.” Steven, the oldest Crain sibling, is an author who writes, he believes, fictional tales of Hill House. He is sick of the fictional voices that his youngest siblings see. They should have gotten mental help for their delusions and figments of imagination a long time ago. Shirley, the second oldest and my least favorite, is a mortician and a control freak having witnessed 4 of her kittens die mysteriously at Hill House. She refuses to say these ghosts exist. Theo, the middle, struggles with emotional intimacy and then, the last two siblings were the ones who saw the most of Hill House’s ghosts. In adulthood, Luke becomes a drug addict and Nell is still haunted nights by the mysterious Bent-Neck Lady. The story shifts timelines going as back as six years ago all the way back to their childhood, each episode focusing on a sibling until it refocuses back to present events and what they will do moving forward. I was honestly surprised I got really emotional during Luke’s episode. He is quite gullible and trusting and genuinely wants to help his younger sister and the people he cares about but through his own naivety and drug addition, he is unable to. This show loves its characters and does not stray too far from its central characters’ development which is still so rare to see in horror but ultimately what I enjoyed most about this show. The siblings are all tied by their unique perspective on death and grief and even represent a deeper metaphor for depression, schizoprenia, migraines, and other mental conditions.

I love how much the show focuses on the house. The Victorian house is an entity on its own and I love each detail on its antiques, its expansive halls and rooms with mysterious treasures. With each episode, more of the house’s history and it’s original inhabitants are revealed. It really built up the suspense and mystery of the house, each sibling having a different relationship with it. It was fully integrated into the story. The story itself did delve a little bit into horror cliches, you know, with children drawing pictures of unsettling things to the age-old “mother is going crazy and hysterical” which only perpetuates the stereotype of female hysteria. The dialogue also leaves something to be desired although I didn’t really notice until the last few episodes. The ending also leaves something to be desired. I was happy we got answers but the ending was so cloying that I felt it didn’t match with the previous episodes. I wanted an uncertain ending but I suppose it does stay true to its characters and the family dynamic. Because the family has been threatened to be torn apart by this house, the ending is fitting that they start to face the demons they’ve been hiding from and come together as a family.

It was really interesting to see the family’s  fractured interactions with one another and their different relationships with or lack of with the others from what they experienced as a child. It definitely added an interesting way of telling each sibling’s perspective and the way each perspective is different because of what they experienced. For example, sheltered by their father and told to close his eyes on the fateful night their mother died, Steven did not see anything supernatural and refuses to believe that Hill House had any ghosts. Their mother died because their father was neglectful and didn’t get her the mental help she needed, causing resentment towards his father. Nell bore the brunt of seeing all these strange ghosts but no one believes her and she starts to believe she’s going crazy, still haunted by her dreams and sights. No one believes Luke either, thinking he is just a heroin addict, and although he wants to become clean, the only way to escape the ghosts he sees is to take drugs. And ultimately, that is what the show was about, the broken hopes and dreams of these siblings, how their tortured past continues to haunt them, but ultimately their inability to face their demons continues to stalk them into their adulthood. Their ghosts are the people they love, the people they have failed, their family, and even themselves. As they each cope and dodge their problems, it becomes apparent the ghosts have not left them. At the heart, it is not about people haunting the house or a scary entity wreaking havoc on lives. It is about the lies we tell ourselves, the denial, and the intimacy of a family that has had a horrible past connecting them for better or worse.

The Haunting of Hill House is so much more than typical horror fanfare and proves that horror can be done just as well for TV as a movie. I loved the exploration of character and mental health throughout and don’t think I have seen anything quite like it.

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Uncategorized

Book Review: American Psycho

Author: Bret Easton Ellis

Genre: Adult Horror, Psychological Thriller

Pages: 416

Ratingtealstartealstar

Goodreads



I was a little at war with myself about this book. One of my main problems with it was the lack of substantial secondary characters but when I looked up interviews with the author, he mentioned that he purposefully wrote those characters like that because he didn’t want people to become attached to them, to warn us about the apathy consumerism has created of us. Now what should I think? The rest of my reading was basically like this.

The plot (not that there is much of one) follows a successful businessman named Pat Bateman. He’s kind of your quintessential wealthy bachelor.  On the outside, he’s obsessed with materialism, constantly streaming out what people are eating or wearing; he hates women and homosexuals. As you continue reading, obviously, you realize on the inside, he’s a psycho, killing off people in detailed, graphic precision. The author attempts to convey the dangers of consumerism, how it makes us lack empathy for our fellow humans and how the oversaturation of this consumerism leads to lack of substantial emotional connection.

There are questions everyone asks when they see or hear about this book.

Is there really that much violence?

One scene involves a woman, a nail gun, a rat, Hailrail tube. And no, they were not separate murders.

I think one of the killing scenes lasted about 2 pages. 2 pages of graphic, violent mutilations. It makes me wonder, was that much violence necessary? I got your point in the first murder scene, no need to give me 5 more scenes of graphic violence that’s oh so shocking *sarcasm*

Is the book misogynistic?

Mmmm…up for debate but I really have to wonder what really is the point of making your main character misogynistic. What does that have to do with the story? The author tells me he kills women so graphically because it fascinates him but the deaths are also meaningless to him. If it’s so meaningless, why are only women killed?

Is it funny?

Actually yeah..it’s a dark kind of humor that’s hard to explain but it’s there.

Ultimately, I gave it a 2 stars because I felt like it wasn’t as nuanced as it thought it was. And the themes that the author tried to convey to me did not have to be repeated to me over and over and over again. I felt like he could have written in a way that had more impact since he clearly wanted to get something across. The writing followed the same pattern of listing off materials people were consuming

When you ask someone who has read this book what they got out of it, I feel like the first thing they would say is the violent scenes and that’s a shame because I felt like this book would have had a lot to offer had it not had so much fun repeating itself to me which ultimately made it kind of boring in fact. Maybe it would have been better off as a short story.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

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Recommendations

Horror recommendations: The Extreme Edition

You have made it this far, my friends. Now are you ready to be scared?? To be disturbed? To be creeped out?? Enter if you dare..

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

Remember that game your mean friend sent you, the one with the maze and stuff. If you play this game for the first time, it will scar you for life..I’ll let you figure out why it had to this book.. There is one scene in this book in particular that has me questioning the author’s sanity but if you like classic horror with exorcisms, possession, crazy religious superstitions and jump scares, this book is perfect for you.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

To be honest, I did not like this book at all (which I’ll discuss in my wrap-up/review) but it might be a “me” thing because apparently everyone else loves it. Quite literally the most violent and disturbing book I’ve ever read in my life. And that’s putting it nicely. Which is also why I have no inclination to watch the movie whatsoever.

 Psycho by Robert Bloch

My favorite one out of this list is Pyscho because I love the use of the psychological and even though I kind of guessed the ending, it was still quite mindblowing and it had me on the edge of my seat the whole time.

Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark Alvin Schwartz

You don’t even need to read this book to be scared. You just have to look at the pictures.

 See?

Pet Sematary by Stephen King 

Stephen King writes the kind of scary that sinks into your skin and leaves you feeling extremely unsettled. It also involves animals rising from the dead so I mean..

So that wraps up my horror recommendations series this October! Let me know if you plan on picking up any of these books, I can’t believe Halloween is just 4 days away…I’m so sorry if my banner freaked you out lol. I don’t even know why I chose that picture in the first place because it scared me so badly. I think I got too into the scary themed post.

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