Review: ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ fails to scare, pleases nonetheless

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

Many fans of Netflix’s new series “The Haunting of Hill House,” directed by Mike Flanagan and based on a Shirley Jackson agree that the show has led to nightmares, anxiety attacks and even made some want to throw up.

Twitter user @RadioWires said, “Man… the haunting of hill house is so good. It makes me want to vomit, cry, and turn on all the lights in the universe. Amazing storytelling. Incredible atmosphere.”

Although I completely agree with the praise, tweets like these can lead others to skip out on a show with amazing character growth and unique storyline because they are afraid it will be too scary for them.

I almost refrained from watching “The Haunting of Hill House” because I am a full-blown scaredy cat. I talked non stop to calm my nerves while watching the 2016 film “Hush,” also directed by Mike Flanagan. While watching the 2018 film “Hereditary,” I screamed and knocked over a few pictures hanging above my couch.

However, my curiosity and love of horror got the best of me. I binged all 10 episodes in a weekend, sometimes alone, in the dark and late at night, without nightmares or the need to vomit.

The first two episodes are slow, refrain from jump scares and have made some viewers, like myself, disappointed at first. I would suggest finishing at least the third episode, “Touch,” before giving up.

“Touch” focuses on one of the Cain siblings, Theo, and through her story introduces a new supernatural aspect of the show. It was, also, the first episode to make me squirm in my seat and shock me.

Flanagan effortlessly intertwined a family drama, focusing on each family member’s inner demons, with an old-fashioned haunted house story. Some of my favorite scenes were characterized by these two aspects of the show colliding.

The creepy atmosphere in addition to the beautiful storytelling, cinematography and performances from the cast made The Haunting of Hill House one of my favorite television series of this year.

But it’s not that scary. Even if the tweets about wanting to throw up are exaggerations, they still portray the show was something it is not. I expected the show to be quiet gory or horrific based on the media coverage, but I was wrong. A few jump scares, a haunting and depressing storyline and a focus on mental illness and addiction make “The Haunting of Hill House” a scary television show.

Although the focus on the family drama aspect and individual characters growth makes the audience care for the characters more when they face their fears, it also brings a sense of compassion and comfort to the show. The family is the focus, not the ghosts or the house itself.

This not-so typical take on horror makes the show more rewarding to watch. There is plot and characters for the audience to focus on rather than the jump scares.

I can admit that a few jump scares throughout the show shocked me enough to jump out of my seat, but The Haunting of Hill House is not too scary for a scaredy cat like me to enjoy.