Review: Netflix show bridges horror and drama perfectly

The new Netflix limited series “The Haunting of Hill House” follows the story of the Crain family and the events that followed their one-summer stay at Hill House, a deserted mansion. Since its release Oct. 12, audiences have been torn regarding both the meaning of the show and whether or not the show is as frightening as some are making it out to be on social media. Photo courtesy of IMDb

Netflix recently rolled out an assortment of original series to get us through the Halloween season, including the series “The curious creations of Christine McConnell” and movies like “The Ritual.” With an emphasis on spooky and scary, all these shows and movies are enough to make your skin crawl, but “The Haunting of Hill House” is a standout hit among them. The 10-episode limited series is the perfect mix of scary, sad and sweet, and leaves viewers confused – wondering if they just watched a family drama or a terrifying thriller. Although some people (with guts of steel) might claim that there’s nothing scary about this series, the first two episodes alone are enough to make you shiver. “The Haunting of Hill House” is scary, but not necessarily in the ways one might think.

Yes, there are jump scares, gory special effects makeup and creepy soundtracks to enhance the storyline, but that’s not the scariest thing about the show. The plot revolves around a family — five children and their parents — and it flashes between present day and the children’s early life. The family moved into a stately house with the intention of restoring it and flipping it, but after a few weeks, supernatural events start to drive the family slowly mad. In present day, the adult children are still reeling from whatever happened in Hill House, while their father protects secrets of the house and of the mysterious circumstances surrounding a fateful night when their mother died. The show strategically twists and turns through the flashbacks, sharing small moments and revealing surprising facts seemingly at random. In the end, however, all of these come together for a full explanation of the true evil that took place at Hill House.

What’s so scary about this show, and what has people on Twitter claiming they’re going to be sick, is the intense dichotomy between supernatural horror and very real insanity. Half of the siblings are resistant to the idea that ghosts exist, and instead place the blame for some of the issues plaguing the family on mental illness. Other siblings insist that ghosts exist, and struggle to decipher what is real and what is supernatural. This, along with very real tragedy, family strife and several extremely disturbing events, make the show chilling. It’s not so much the actual ghosts and creepy experiences that make the show scary, but how close to reality the “ghosts” seem. It’s completely understandable that someone might place blame on ghosts instead of accepting the loss of loved ones or a struggle with addiction. The show grapples with very real issues, and still manages to make a compelling and intense storyline out of the experience.

“The Haunting of Hill House” proves that psychological thrillers and supernatural horrors are not mutually exclusive, and that the real terror may be in your own brain, but you’ll never truly know. It will pull at the heartstrings, but still leaves you sleeping with all the lights on, hiding under your covers. The surprising emotional intensity of this show, along with selectively graphic and frightening imagery, definitely evoked tears as well as a desire to sleep with every light in the house on. When a show can spark emotional vulnerability two seconds before scaring you out of your seat, it’s a sure hit — and that’s exactly what “The Haunting of Hill House” did.