The Haunting of Hill House follows the story of the Crain Children, who lived in what would become the most famous haunted house in America.
Now grown up, the siblings and their estranged father reunite when their youngest sister commits suicide. Which forces them to confront the haunting memories and terrifying events that drove them out of Hill House.
Often switching between past events and present troubles, the series uses its well-crafted episodes to focus on each sibling’s unique experience in Hill House. And how these experiences then go on to define their lives.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead!!!
Of the five Crain kids, we’re first introduced to Steve. A successful author who adapted the horrific experiences of his siblings into hit Novels.
This, however, leads to a strained relationship between him and the rest of the family. As we soon discover that Steve is not only a deep denier of the paranormal activities that plagued his family. But also blames the ghost stories of his younger ones, on a mental illness he believes all they inherited from their mother.
He even has a vasectomy, to prevent himself from passing this ailment to the next generation.
When Nellie dies, Steve blames his father for her death and mental state. As he never told them the truth about Hill House. But by the final episode when the house reveals its true self to the family, Steve realizes that he’s lived his entire life with ghosts and never knew it.
Next , we have Shirley, the responsible older sister. And the embodiment of anger and impulsive control.
As a child in Hill House, Shirley has a terrible brush with death when the six abandoned kittens she adopts, all die in her room.
This experience, however, is only made worse following her mother’s suicide. And in an attempt to make sense of the various events happening around her, a young Shirley takes an interest in the art of embalming bodies for funerals. And she soon grows up to run her own funeral home.
As an adult, Shirley tries to be perfect and often expects the same from her family.
When Steve offers to share the proceeds from his book with the family. Shirley rejects it and urges her siblings to do the same, as she sees Steve’s book has a mockery of their suffering. But when everyone (including her husband) inevitably take Steve’s money behind her back, Shirley feels betrayed and appears to be the only one with morals.
However, it’s soon revealed that even Shirley has a secret of her own. And it’s not until the season finale she’s able to face her hypocrisy.
In the third episode, we dive into the backstory of Theodora, the middle child and the coolest of the Crain siblings.
As a kid, Theo has a run in with one of the many ghosts in Hill House and gains the ability to sense the history of anything she touches.
This ability influences her life as she grows up to become a child psychologist. Where she uses her powers, to assist troubled children with their various issues.
This power however, is not without its disadvantages. As we soon discover that Theo is also an emotionally distant person who lives in constant fear of intimacy. And so to keep her powers in check, Theo sets boundaries and emotional walls to keep her safe from people’s emotions and feelings.
But fear and guilt are sisters that can break into any room. And Theodora is no exception.
Like the rest of his siblings, Luke found himself at the mercy of Hill House. As a kid, Luke is a gentle soul who often played with his twin sister Nellie and his friend Abigail. Who everyone believed to be an imaginary friend. (she’s not)
When we first meet Luke as an adult, he is a recovering drug addict. Who used drugs to suppress his haunted childhood (especially because no one believed him).
When Nellie dies, Luke becomes infuriated and travels to Hill House to raze it to the ground. However, to no one’s surprise, Hill House refuses to go down without a fight. And it soon reveals to have plans for Luke and his siblings.
Nellie or Eleanor Crain is arguably the most unfortunate character in the entire series. But while her story is sad and complex, it’s also strangely satisfying.
While growing up in Hill House, Nell (as her siblings often call her) is tormented by visions of a Bent Neck Lady that only she can see.
As an adult, these visions only get worse. And she’s soon forced to seek help in sleep therapy, where she meets her husband, Arthur.
Together Nell and Authur create a system to help her navigate these visions. And for a time all seems right with the world. Until Arthur dies from an aneurysm, and Nell returns to the dark rabbit hole that is depression.
Frustrated with her current situation, Nellie travels to Hill House hoping to gain some closure. However, she soon comes face to face with her deceased mother who then tricks her into hanging herself.
After her death, it’s then revealed that Nellie is the Bent Neck Lady and has been seeing her future dead herself all this while.
At the end of the series, Nell appears to save her siblings from the house and their Mother.
She then explains to them how Hill house works, in one of the best monologues about time I’ve ever heard. Comparing Hill House to a monster, and the red room they all unknowingly played in as its stomach.
She explains that Hill House used the red room to keep the siblings still and happy. By appearing to each of them as what they wanted most. While it Quietly consumed their Minds.
Nell then inspires luke to live and assures her family that she will always be with them.
The Parents – Hugh and Olivia Crain
Originally intending to spend the summer fixing Hill House and then putting it up on the market. The couple moves in with their five kids and hires the Dudleys to help with the renovations. However, when Hill House proves to be a special case for Hugh (who’s an expert at fixing things), the couple extends their stay indefinitely.
But while Hugh struggled with the ever growing problems and repairs of Hill House. Olivia assisted her husband, by providing him with the schematics of the house.
However, it’s not long before Olivia experiences intense migraines and sees visions of the twins dying from drug abuse and depression. And she soon meets the former owner of Hill House, Poppy Hill.
Poppy (who was insane even before her death), torments Olivia with even more horrible visions of the twins. And convinces her that the only way to save them from their Nightmarish future is to “wake them up” (kill them).
After weeks of torment, Olivia gives in and tries to kill the twins and herself with rat poisoned tea. But luckily, Hugh arrives in time to save them and takes all the kids away in the dead of night.
Poppy then returns to convince Olivia that all this was just a terrible nightmare. And if she wakes herself up (kills herself), she will be reunited with her kids.
When Hugh returns for Olivia and finds her dead, he is hell-bent on burning Hill House to the ground (as he should). But the Dudleys convince him to spare the house, as their only daughter Abigail (who died from Olivia’s poisoned tea), is now a ghost in Hill House.
In the final episode, Hugh sacrifices himself to stop Olivia from coming after the rest of their kids. And the truth to Steve, while also entrusting him with the house and the promise of always keeping it standing and empty.
The Haunting of Hill House is a beautiful series that details the various stages of grief using the awful experiences of the Crain children.
And while it also uses their experiences to show that we can only triumph over our own issues if we face them. I can’t help thinking those poor kids would have never suffered through hell if they never lived in Hill House. (P.S. please let me know what you think of the series down in the section and tweet at us @RealCinemaHub)