Forget Bly Manor, I'm still not over the ending of Hill House...
It’s been 11 days since the sad passing of Halloween, and while its hypothetical corpse is still very much warm, it seems as though people want to pay it nothing but disrespect, by coldly looking ahead to the festive period even though we are still firmly in November.
We are having none of it, the scary season still deserves one last hurrah, as we have a bone to pick with The Haunting of Hill House and its scaringly bad ending.
The Haunting of Hill House was released on October 2018, so don't worry, we aren't late to the party, we are simply the victims of Netflix's seasonal showings.
If you spent any time on Netflix during this Halloween period, then you would’ve seen that they ferociously pushed The Haunting of Hill House, along with its latest series- The Haunting of Bly Manor. Hill House is a modern-day retelling of Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name, about five siblings who grew up in one of America’s most haunted houses. Whereas, Bly Manor is loosely based on the work of American author, Henry James. Bly Manor's narrative isn't connected to Hill House, but many of the creative team and cast did return to make the series.
Hill House follows the five children into adulthood as they’re brought together by the suicide of their younger sister, which forces them to confront ghosts of their past and present. Some of which swirl in their mind, and some which infest Hill House like a relentless oozing poison.
On Rotten Tomatoes, The Haunting of Hill House scores an extravagant 93% on the Tomatometer, but to be blunt- I don't believe it deserves that score.
Now, this isn’t intended to be a rib on the show, Hill House is crafted very well, and creator Mike Flanagan should be happy with what he achieved with this 2018 series.
This stylish small screen original offers satirical humour merged with a looming sinister presence that cannot be ignored. At the very most, Flanagan has done a great job of portraying relatable characters, who try their best to conquer the demons inside the house and inside themselves.
But, all of this hard work is undone and tainted by an abysmal ending. The show is perfect from episode one to six, but after that, well, may as well be an Adam Sandler comedy.
Right, so let me rewind a bit. It’s not that bad.
But, the focus and drive of the series most certainly dies off towards the end, as it completely overkills the CGI effects and strings together a half baked finish that becomes painstakingly predictable. By the time the series reaches its climax, or in this case, anti-climax, you can't help but feel that the ending could've been handled better.
Did Flanagan learn from his mistakes? No, he didn't. Bly Manor was subject to bad reviews across the board, and it even got a two-star rating from The Guardian, so you know it must be pretty divisive. Bly Manor is a series that suffers heavily from pacing issues, everything about it seems to be going at snail pace - not exactly the best fit for a show that is supposed to be about a hair-raising haunting.
I do not dispute the fact that Flanagan knows his horror, the genre practically runs through his veins, as he shows with projects like Oculus, Hush and Gerald’s Game. Plus, it doesn't take an expert to figure out that he got the scare factor right with The Haunting of Hill House, it has a plentiful supply of terror and dread throughout the ten episodes. Most of these moments come in the early stages of the series, where the show would sparingly surprise you with sudden glimpses of maimed figures and phantom shadows.
Truth be told these scary sequences have a lot to do with what period is being shown. The show switches from past to present day as we see Hugh Crain (Henry Thomas) and his wife Olivia (Carla Gugino) renovating Hill House in order to flip it. They move into the house with their children - Steven (Paxton Singleton), Shirley ((Lulu Wilson), Theodora (Mckenna Grace) and twins Luke (Julian Hilliard) & Nell (Violet McGraw).
Throughout these ten, hour-long episodes, we are bombarded with flashbacks of them growing up in Hill House which all helps us understand the long-lasting psychological effects it has on their adult lives.
Critics were overzealous with their reviews for The Haunting of Hill House. Some even going as far as to say that it was one of the best depictions of horror in the last decade.
And to that, in typical Scrooge fashion, I say “bah, humbug.”
The last few episodes stripped that title away in one fell swoop - with its laughable use of CGI effects that take away from the horror experience. Towards the end, you’ll come across a ghost or demonic entity in every other scene - it loses its wow factor and becomes less scary by each frame. It undercuts the stellar performances from some of the main protagonists, such as Theodora and Luke, who captivate audiences as they try to cope with their demons.
Perhaps, Flanagan has a problem with striking a balance, as it seems he put too much horror into Hill House and didn't have anything left for the production of Bly Manor.
The people at Netflix are a clever bunch, they are timely with the things they promote, and I got caught in the trap.
I decided to watch The Haunting of Hill House. Do I regret it? No.
As for my review on Bly Manor...I'll get back to you next year.
If you enjoyed what you read, and want to support Stephen and our commitment to fresh content, support Stephen with a cuppa over
Subscribe here to Fresh Take for more opinions on the world of film and television.
And subscribe to our podcast Well Good Movies, for more film and TV fun!