Spoilers will be expected. In the night. In the dark.
The comparisons between this series and The Haunting of Bly Manor are extensive. It shares a lot of the cast and they seem to be sister projects. This one came first, and to be honest I was pleasantly surprised with a lot more emphasis on horror without eschewing character development. I think in the end, I did found this one a lot more grounded in the horror genre. The series are not related, but you can see how the creative team is the same. That’s all I am going say in comparison between the two shows.
The Haunting of Hill House was created and directed by Mike Flanagan. It’s the story of a family with five children living in Hill House and the same five as grown-ups adults dealing with everyday problems but still having issues with their past. Young couple Hugh (Henry Thomas) and Olivia Crain (Carla Gugino) fix, repair and flip houses for a living. They have moved into Hill House with their children Steven (Paxton Singleton), Shirley (Lulu Wilson), Theodora (Mckenna Grace) and twins Nell (Violet McGraw) and Luke (Julian Hilliard).
Twenty-six later, the children are all grown up. Steven (Michiel Huisman) has wrote a book based on the ghostly experiences of the house although he doesn’t recognize he ever experienced any. The book has alienated him from his siblings. Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser) runs a mortuary and has two children with her husband Kevin. Theo (Kate Siegel) has become a child psychiatrist and wears gloves to prevent touching things or people as she gets psyching readings when she does.
The twins have not fared any better, and actually far worse. Luke (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is a recovering addict that has fallen back on his drug addiction so many times than most of his siblings don’t trust him anymore. Nell (Victoria Pedretti) suffers from sleep paralysis and has lost her husband to an aneurysm. Finally, there’s Hugh (Timothy Hutton), the father who everyone is estranged from and who has never explained that fateful night in which he dragged all the kids out of the house after her wife’s suicide. Hugh has never sold nor re-opened Hill House.
What we get in a slow reveal of both the past incidents and the future developments for each character. I honestly didn’t see any filler here. The siblings’ strained relationship with each other over the years feels genuine. Hugh’s pale attempts at trying to reunite them or give them advice are painfully sad and unfortunately hardly hit the mark. It doesn’t help that for most of them, the experience changed them without them ever sharing what kind of trauma they go through.
The young children deliver honest performances and whenever the script demands it, they do shine. Olivia is a very central figure to their stay in the house, and her death which was ruled a suicide impact them all more than they let on. I found most of the adult performances also tend to hit the mark far more than miss it. You can relate to a group of siblings already have preconceptions about each other enough than they prefer to go with what they believe than listen. This goes double for the way they discard any input from their father.
The color palette is dark and muted. The cgi is best when you don’t notice it there. The cinematography is good, even on scenes that have enough color to make out what you’re seeing. The scares are also good. Hardly any come across as cheap, even when they’re supposed to make you jump. The plot is good and well paced, although a few things are not as cleanly resolved as others. Not every ghost gets a backstory, but not all mysteries need to be solved.
Strongly recommended. The storytelling is on point. The scares work better when they’re subtle rather than obvious cgi. The characters are well developed and engaging enough to keep your attention for the entire run without any perceived filler. The performances are quite strong even from the young cast, which can be both adorable and creepy when the script calls for it. More than worth a watch.
That will do for now.