Netflix has been amping up its horror output over the years with Stranger Things, Death Note and the much anticipated Chilling Adventures of Sabrina but it’s now entered seriously Gothic horror territory with the arrival of The Haunting of Hill House.
This 10-episode series comes from horror aficionado Mike Flanagan, who has previously impressed in the genre thanks to Hush, Ouija: Origins of Evil and the streaming service’s very own original film Gerald’s Game.
The new series is based on Shirley Jackson’s popular Gothic novel of the same name but while it respects the original text, Flanagan has expanded the characters and story to cater for a more contemporary audience that is looking for scares at home and not just the cinema.
This version goes back and forth in time, focusing on the Crain family after they move into the titular house, in the ‘80s, and how the terrifying experience has affected their lives as adults, today.
Yahoo Movies UK caught up with cast members Michiel Huisman (Steven Crain), Henry Thomas (Hugh Crain), Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Luke Crain), Elizabeth Reaser (Shirley Crain) and Kate Siegel (Theodora Crain) to discuss exactly why their series is the TV horror you’ve been waiting for.
It’s full of your favourite horror actors
If you’ve been keeping up with Mike Flanagan’s work you’ll recognise several stars from his previous films.
Thomas, Siegel, Reaser, Carla Gugino, and Lulu Wilson have all appeared in one or more of the director’s films while Huisman starred in The Invitation, Jackson-Cohen in The Raven and the Dracula TV series while Mackenna Grace has appeared in The Vampire Diaries, Amityville: The Awakening and 2015’s Frankenstein.
“I feel like I’m part of a repertoire company now because we have worked with Mike three times,” Henry Thomas said. “And it’s great after forty years in the film business – finally someone hires me more than once.”
“It’s a good way to start a family drama as there is already that history built in,” Kate Siegel added. “I can look at Henry and think of all of the times I had to look at Henry.”
It’s not just a carbon copy of the book or films
Jackson’s 1959 is considered one of the best 20th-century ghost stories ever written so it’s no wonder that it spawned several adaptations. Some for better, like the 1963 film adaptation The Haunting, and others for worse like the 1999 version led by Liam Neeson.
“I hadn’t read the books or seen the films until I started working on the series so I had read the scripts before I had read the book,” Elizabeth Reaser explained. “I just fell in love with this family and found them really compelling.”
“I hadn’t read the book but I’d seen the Robert Wise movie and the Liam Neeson movie and actually hadn’t put two and two together because both of them were called The Haunting,” Oliver Jackson-Cohen said. “I thought it was going to be an adaptation of the book again.”
The series is definitely not that. It is an intriguing expansion of the book with narrative and character tweaks to allow for more of a sinister exploration of family, grief and the supernatural.
“We’re in a world now where we’re constantly doing remakes, we’re constantly doing sequels but what Mike hasn’t done is try to recreate the original movie,” Jackson Cohen continues. “He’s paying homage to the original text and the original movie but also updating it and creating something really original in its own right.
It’s a family drama as well as a horror
The series is pretty much a supernatural version of This Is Us as it focuses on family, tragedy, and grief as well as using flashbacks. in this case, to see what the five Crain siblings were dealing with as children in the haunted house and how that traumatic experience changed their adult life.
Each episode focuses on one family member in particular, including parents Hugh and Olivia (Gugino), unpacking the different perspectives of the same situation to tense and sinister effect.
“Although our show is a horror show at the same time it’s really a family drama and that gave me a way into the horror,” Huisman explained. “I just focused on the drama and let all the scary stuff sort of happened.”
“Yes, early on we had talks about that because the story it feels very confined it could well be the end so what does that mean for season two. We haven’t had any of those conversations recently, for now, I think we’re going to wait and see what the audience thinks of this but I love that concept of the anthology so I would totally be up for that too.
There are plenty of horror Easter Eggs
The Shining and Poltergeist are clear influences on the style and tone of the series but also the original 1963 film. “There are some beautiful homages to the original movie,” said Siegel, “doorknob moments, wall moments.
“Mike Flanagan and Michael Fimognari, or director and DP, spent a lot of time making sure horror fans, and anybody really, would have a lot to discover on second or third viewings.”
There are also a lot of ghosts that viewers may not notice the first time around.
“They will appear in the frame at random points,” Thomas added. “So in each episode, there are enough of these ghosts planted that real fans can freeze frame, count [them] and post it on Reddit.
“If you get them all there will be some sort of special thing that will come your way,” the actor joked.
This may end up being an anthology series
Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk can be credited for making the anthology series fashionable thanks to American Horror Story and American Crime Story and it could certainly lend itself to The Haunting of Hill House too. Season 1 feels like a complete story but fans who enjoy the Gothic style might want more from the same cast and crew.
“Early on we had talks about that because the story, it feels very confined,” Huisman explained. “It could well be the end so what does that mean for season two?
“We haven’t had any of those conversations recently – for now, I think we’re going to wait and see what the audience thinks of this – but I love that concept of the anthology so I would totally be up for that too.”
The Haunting of Hill House arrives on Netflix this Friday, 12 October