When Hugh Crain (Henry Thomas) and his wife Olivia (Carla Gugino) buy Hill House, they intend to renovate the property for a massive profit. But their plans are thwarted when the home becomes filled with hauntings that are uniquely personalized to each family member.
The Haunting of Hill House, adapted by Mike Flanagan for Netflix, is a modern adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel about the psychological terrors of a haunted mansion. It is also an incredibly effective depiction of the ways in which trauma affects everyone involved.
There are two major groups of characters in the television series: The surviving members of the Crain family, and those who have visited Hill House in the past. The former group includes Dr. John Montague, a supernatural investigator; Eleanor Vance, an ex-nurse and recluse who is haunted by her mother’s illness; Theodora, an eccentric artist; and Luke Sanderson, the heir to Hill House.
Each character is driven by their own lingering traumas, whether they realize it or not. They are pushed to their breaking point when they are confronted with the reality of their own madness and the paranormal activity that plagues them in their daily lives.
As each member of the Crain family finds a way to explain or rationalize their paranormal experiences, they also discover that Hill House has been pushing them further and further into their darkest secrets and fears. It is not until every member of the family is forced to face their skeletons that they can start to find peace in one another and learn to love each other again.
While the Crains are able to work together in order to fight off the paranormal, it is not always easy for them to do so. They are divided into two distinct camps: those who try to rationalize their afflictions and those who seek to flee from the horrors of Hill House.
Theodora and Eleanor, who both accept the offer to spend a summer at Hill House, are more vulnerable to the effects of mental illness and addiction than their siblings. They are women who have struggled to connect with others, especially their own children. They are also women who have lost their husbands and are struggling with their own emotional baggage.
For Eleanor, it’s hard to get past the memory of her mother, who died of a heart attack when she was young. She has never been able to move forward from her grief, and her desire to be a part of the family unit means she is drawn to Hill House.
But she soon finds herself overwhelmed by her own fear and unable to cope with the presence of the ghostly apparition that resides in the house. Her fear causes her to lash out at those closest to her, and she struggles to control her impulses.
When Eleanor’s mental illness worsens and she lashes out at her family, it seems as though all of them are doomed. But when Theo goes to her daughter’s home and senses that her foster father is molesting the girl, she begins to suspect that the apparition is a manifestation of her own trauma. She is able to break him out of his abuse and even save her friend Nell, but it is not until Nell’s twin Luke, who has also spent time in the house, jumps from the stairs that the family is saved from their own looming doom.