The Haunting of Hill House is Sheer Terror!

“Horror movies aren’t even scary anymore.” That’s what I told Mrs. Buckler a week ago. We were cruising Netflix for something new to watch and we were in the mood for a horror flick. (It’s October, after all.) The problem is that many of today’s horror flicks are so formulaic that you can predict that outcome of each scene. Despite our skepticism, we took a chance on The Haunting of Hill House. It’s story about a family struggling to come to terms with its problems, losses, and experiences of living in a haunted house. How was it? Mrs. Buckler and I were utterly terror stricken throughout all 10 episodes!

The Horror Film You Can Feel…

During a particularly scary scene in the first episode, “Steven Sees a Ghost,” I felt a chill run through my body. It was like a weird electrical current vibrating through my body. This made goosebumps pop up along the length of both my legs. As I turned to tell Mrs. Buckler about these strange sensations, she said she experienced the exact same thing. She paused the program and we discussed how weird it was that she and I had the same physical sensation at the exact same time.

Our reactions to that scene made me think that it wasn’t some random event. Friends of ours said they had similar experiences while watching The Haunting on Hill House. The show’s creators must have done something to cause these reactions, I thought. It was more than just scary special effects and intense music. I’ve analyzed enough films to learn some of the tricks that directors use to enhance the overall experience. I decided to watch this Netflix original series even more closely.

“I Saw a Ghost in the Kitchen!”

When this happened, I knew I cracked the code as to why The Haunting of Hill House was so scary. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. This is a story about a haunted house, so there’s ghosts in the movie. Yes, you’re right… more than you might realize. But I’m not talking about the obvious ghosts that you see tormenting the Crain family. I’m talking about the ghosts that the show’s director hid in and around the house in every episode.

Halfway through the series, there’s a scene with the mother in the kitchen with two of her daughters. As she walks through the kitchen, talking to her girls, I noticed a creepy, pale-faced ghost staring at her from the window to another room. None of the actors notice or acknowledge the spirit; it’s just silently watching them as they go about their day. “Did you see that?” I shouted. Mrs. Buckler didn’t, so we rewound the scene and watched it again.  She saw it the second time around.

After some internet research, we discovered that there are these ghastly “Easter eggs” hidden throughout each episode. In most cases, these ghosts are hidden in plain sight, often in the backgrounds of many shots. For example, there are fleeting images of ghosts in door frames, under a piano, behind a curtain, etc. The director doesn’t call attention to them so, in most cases, you don’t even know they’re there. Your subconscious mind does, though.

That’s right. I’m saying that show creator Mike Flanagan more than dabbled in subconscious storytelling techniques throughout this series. As far as I’m concerned, he knew what he was doing when he placed these creepy figures in all those shots. Here’s how I believe it works:

  1. Your conscious mind is focused on the main action of each scene, such as what the actors are doing and discussing.
  2. While you don’t realize that you “see” the hidden spirits in these scenes, your mind does. (More to the point, your subconscious mind sees them and registers them.)
  3. Your subconscious mind doesn’t communicate directly with your conscious mind. It sends signals to your brain, instead. These signals manifest as uneasy feelings, fear, and even a fight-or-flight response.
  4. Viewers are constantly nervous and on edge while watching each minute of The Haunting on Hill House. This makes the show’s scary scenes – the ones you’re meant to see – seem much more terrifying.
  5. I believe this is the secret to The Haunting of Hill House’s ability to trigger physical reactions with most viewers.

Want to Find the Hidden Ghosts?

The hidden ghosts thing isn’t some half-baked theory I came up with. There are blogs and websites that show every hidden ghost in every scene. Type “hidden ghosts in The Haunting of Hill House into your search bar and have fun with it. Just don’t check this out before you watch the series because it could spoil the experience. You’ll be blown away by how many ghosts Flanagan was able to hide in so many scenes. (I was going to share a couple still images from the series but that would violate my staunch no-spoilers policy.)

The Haunting of Hill House Season 2?

A first season this good practically begs the question of whether there will be a second. The first season more or less covers the story arc of the Shirley Jackson novel that this show is based on. Netflix’s original intention might have been to simply base the series off the novel and let it be done at the conclusion of episode 10. There is precedent for some series going beyond the books they were based on. Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and HBO’s Big Little Lies are a good examples of this.

Season one ended with a new “caretaker” of this haunted mansion. (I won’t tell you which Crain family member “inherits” the house.) This could serve as a plot point for a second season. Another thing writers could focus on are the stories of the many spirits trapped in that home. In a Hollywood Reporter article, Flanagan was evasive about whether or not there will be a second season. That’s why I believe there will be a second season. (This is the guy who hid ghosts in a house for 10 episodes, after all!)

Stream Netflix on an AirTV Player from Solid Signal

Each week, I tell you about some new show I’ve streamed. Now, I’d like to tell you about a great way to stream these shows for yourself. DISH’s AirTV Player is a unique streaming device on the market. Why should you be interested in it? Because an AirTV Player lets you cut the cord on cable TV while still enjoying local TV channels, Sling TV, national channels, and paid streaming services such as Netflix. Yes, that tiny white box really delivers all that, plus it has DVR capabilities that lets you record this programming.

The AirTV Player utilizes the power of AndroidTV. If you’re interested in the details of Android technology and how it works with the AirTV Player, check out Stuart Sweet’s latest blog post on the topic. He does a great job (as always) of explaining the nuts and bolts of this system and how it benefits people who use this streaming service provider. I know is that it’s a great way to have ALL the channels Mrs. Buckler and I enjoy in one, easy-to-use menu. That’s enough for us, and it might be perfect for you and your family, too!

About the Author

Jake Buckler
Jake Buckler is a cord-cutter, consumer electronics geek, and Celtic folk music fan. Those qualities, and his writing experience, helped him land a copywriting gig at Signal Group, LLC. He also contributes to The Solid Signal Blog.