Back in October this year, Netflix streamed its adaptation of Shirley Jackson's classic novel. Anticipation had been low, even in horror circles, since horror remakes and re-imaginings rarely receive critical acclaim. So when the show turned out to be brilliantly terrifying, word soon spread.
The Netflix show isn't exactly an adaptation - rather, it's an amalgamation of the novel that can be viewed as a sequel. For example, Steven and Shirley aren't characters in the book, although it was written by one Shirley Jackson. And whilst adult versions of Theodora, Eleanor, and Luke do appear in the book, they're not siblings, meeting for the first time at Hill House.
It's the work put into those characters and others that elevate it. A jump-scare can still be effective on its own, but it's far more effective when the audience is emotionally receptive to the victim's plight.
The words of Steven Crain in episode one hold a lot of truth: "When I say I've never seen a ghost, it's not exactly true. I've seen a lot of ghosts — just not the way you think. A ghost can be a lot of things — a memory, a daydream, a secret, grief, anger, guilt."
It's not just Hill House that's haunted; the Crain family's hearts and minds are, too.