The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House ★★★★½

I don't like to drop mini-series reviews here as a rule. However, as I bring my Mike Flanagan filmography mostly to a close, I feel the need to gush a bit here.

THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is a nearly perfect thriller mini-series.

Flanagan, as a writer, Upper-Case-L loves his characters. They are well developed off the source material. In THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, Flanagan (and his team of episode writers) are able to flesh the characters and their issues and their supernatural quirks out over the course of 10 episodes. The series format allows him to deep dive into a family with five kids. And each character is clearly loved deeply by the writer. These kids have powerful bonds, shared histories, and clearly defined personality attributes. I loved all of them.

As is a staple in Flanagan's work, flashbacks and current events intertwine in the narrative as the story cares about the depth of the haunt and its impact on the characters infinitely more than it does cheap thrills or jump scares--although those are in here as well.

In essence, each of the characters 'owns' an episode where his/her perspective and role in the titular haunting gets fleshed out. Each episode is creepy as hell in its own way with stunning horror elements. However, each episode is brilliantly impactful because these characters connect. Even the child actors--five of them--are brilliant. Young Luke (Julian Hilliard) delivers one particular gut-punching line that is a testament to the strength of Flanagan's writing.

Episode 6 features a few DePalma-esque long steadicam shots, and parts of the episode unfold fascinatingly like a stageplay--sort of reminiscent of ROPE, yet there are some stunning moments within. In addition to DePalma and Hitchcock, Kubrick's THE SHINING is another strong influence. POLTERGEIST, and the Pang Brothers' THE EYE also feel like they're part of the DNA here. Russ Tamblyn also shows up in a small, recurring role, which is as much reference to his work on the original 1963 telling of this story (THE HAUNTING) as it is to his work on TWIN PEAKS.

And through it all, what amazes me about this project is the fusion of smart family drama TV and patient, atmospheric, consequence-based flashback horror.
A-

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