When the clocks go back this year, it means only one thing: more nocturnal hours in which to binge your way through what’s already being called the best TV show of 2018.
With a Stranger Things-shaped hole in their Halloween scheduling this year (season three of the flagship hit is due to drop next summer), Netflix have plugged the gap with their 10-part adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s classic chiller, The Haunting of Hill House.
We say ‘adaptation’, but in the hands of writer-director Mike Flanagan, the word should be taken with a pinch of salt. This new version takes the barest bones of Jackson’s 1959 novel and forges its own path, detailing the repercussive effects of grief and trauma on a young family who fell under the eponymous abode’s violent, destructive spell.
It’s an audaciously successful project, not just in Flanagan’s narrative retooling but in his ceaselessly inventive direction (hello, episode six!). There are some serious horror chops on display here – yes, it’s bloody scary – but it’s the series’ profoundly moving rumination on its domestic tragedies that lingers long after that glass of wine has been shocked from your hand.
If you’ve already made it through The Haunting of Hill House’s nine or so hours, or are looking to ease your way in, here are five films that will give you a similar fix.
Director: Hugo Haas
The American author Shirley Jackson may have only written six novels alongside her 200-odd short stories, but big-screen adaptations of her work remain few and far between. Lizzie was the first to appear, just three years after the publication of its source novel, The Bird’s Nest.
Largely overshadowed by the same-year release of Oscar-winning The Three Faces of Eve, Lizzie similarly sees its protagonist (Eleanor Parker) struggle with a split-personality disorder. Directed by actor-director Hugo Haas, it’s an agreeably lurid B-movie, with a terrific schizoid turn from Parker, culminating in a mirrored battle between her alter egos.
The Haunting (1963)
Director: Robert Wise
The definitive Jackson adaptation, and the first big-screen adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House, Robert Wise’s sensational chiller regularly finds itself in the upper reaches of all-time horror film lists.
Not to be confused with Jan de Bont’s wretched 1999 remake, Wise’s film hews much closer to Jackson’s novel than the new Netflix series. The house itself is a marvel of design, and Wise ekes suspense and terror from its unseen nooks, much of the film’s horror occurring off-screen. A masterclass in slow-burn, creeping chills, The Haunting begs to be watched with the volume right up, so that when those knocks come…
The Shining (1980)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Stephen King appears to be quite the fan of the new The Haunting of Hill House, tweeting recently: “I don’t usually care for this kind of revisionism, but this is great. Close to a work of genius.”
Of course, by “this kind of revisionism” he’s referring to his famous spat with Stanley Kubrick, who bought the rights to his 1977 novel The Shining, only to take its supernatural mysteries in a more ambiguous direction.
Whichever side of the fence you’re on (we’re #TeamStanley, for the record), Kubrick’s adaptive liberties move the locus of The Overlook hotel’s terrors into the heart of the Torrance family itself, much like with the new The Haunting of Hill House. As a result, the unseen and the unimaginable that fester within the familiar prove far more terrifying than the antics of some angry ghosts.
The Changeling (1980)
Director: Peter Medak
1980’s other haunted house movie forgoes the violent psychosis of The Shining for a more measured, meditative approach to the uncanny.
Much like The Haunting of Hill House, it’s a study in trauma and recovery that sees composer John Russell (George C. Scott) holed up in a Seattle mansion following the death of his wife and daughter in a road accident.
Struggling to cope, Russell sees his grief manifest itself by way of an empathetic conduit to the death of a young child many years earlier in the house. Cue strange noises, horrifying visions and one creepy séance as Russell begins to uncover the secrets of his new home.
Gerald’s Game (2017)
Director: Mike Flanagan
If you’re keen to check out some more work by the writer-director of The Haunting of Hill House, Netflix is concurrently hosting nearly all of his previous features. While the series is his best work by a long shot, each of his earlier films has something to recommend them.
It’s probably a good thing that Stephen King has given his approval to the new show, given Flanagan is set to helm the sequel to The Shining, based on King’s 2013 novel, Doctor Sleep. He’s got previous skin in the King game, having last year tackled one of the writer’s novels long considered unfilmable: the bedroom-horror, Gerald’s Game.
With a number of faces familiar from The Haunting of Hill House, it’s a brilliantly queasy, claustrophobic nightmare. For the squeamish among us, you might want to look up ‘degloving’ first. Or maybe not.
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