Confused, upset or just curious about the final episode of Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House? This should help explain where it came from (and why it wasn’t as sudden of a change as it seemed).
I was very much anticipating Hill House’s tenth and closing episode not just because the series has been an amazing example of television storytelling, but also because of several comments I’ve read about it being very different from the rest of the series.
Some people seemed deeply affected emotionally, others instead surprised (startled?) and bemused by a drastic change in tone.
Having finally watched it, I feel for the most part it stayed close-ish to the show’s already established tone. True, Hill House itself was less outright scary and there were no moments of primal terror or even any major jump scares… but there were still dismal, Gothic gloom, creepy ghosts, and a heavy sacrifice required to allow those that would survive, to survive.
It was no sudden bowl of sappy syrup (as I was starting to expect).
That is, until about the final 6 minutes. Without going further into detail, suffice it to say that not only did the entire tone change drastically, but they completely altered the underlying spirit (sorrynotsorry) of Shirley Jackson’s book (which has often been called the best modern haunted house story written).
Normally I would be nonplussed by this and feel like a cheap and clumsy trick had been pulled on the viewer, yet if you haven’t read the book it’s important to understand the creators changed the entire nature of things in their adaptation from the very beginning.
It’s only in those last few minutes that they stop even trying to disguise it.
Hill House the novel is about a freaking literally insane house that has a history of alleged supernatural events as well as being cleverly designed to mess with peoples’ sense of physical reality. Four strangers spend a week there to investigate it’s paranormal aspects.
One guest is somewhat delusional and open to possession (or a delusional telekinetic, or a mixture of the two) and off we go. On an aside, analysis of the novel often debates whether Hill House was actually haunted. I tend to think the novel version’s Hill House *is* haunted, it just “likes” or is highly activated by Eleanor in some way.
Hill House the Netflix series is about a broken family in need of healing first and a haunted house story second.
The Crain family we get to know in the TV show is almost completely an invention of the show creators, with some bits of the book’s characters, dialogue, and narration sprinkled in throughout.
In fact it can be argued the TV version’s Hill House and related supernatural events are just metaphors for dysfunction in family relationships and personal choices. It is also the story of a father giving everything to protect his kids at the cost of them disrespecting him at best and outright despising him at worst because they don’t see or believe the big picture and it’s impossible to tell them.
Let’s look at the opening and closing of each version:
…silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.
…silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there walked alone.
The circle is unbroken. The evil of Hill House continues unchanged as always.
There was no family dynamic, just four strangers in a dangerous house.
Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House. And whatever walked there… walked alone.
Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House. And those who walk there… walk together.
The circle (for the Crain family) is broken. Hope and light arrive.
Hill House itself finishes the Netflix series almost (actually?) as a place of refuge.
I tend to agree with something I read a while back… the Netflix version is This Is Us meets The Haunting of Hill House. If I go with that, I can also accept that it has a different overall thesis and end goal from the source material.
With a different storytelling intent, I can live with how the Neflix version ends, at the same time acknowledging it is an abrupt and arguably confusing tonal and narrative pivot in those final minutes.