Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House S1:E1 (Steven Sees a Ghost) recap

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October – The Haunting of Hill House – Courtesy of Netflix

The Haunting of Hill House is now streaming on Netflix. Are you watching it? Here is a recap of episode one (Steven Sees a Ghost).

Shirley Jackson’s classic The Haunting of Hill House contains perhaps the best opening paragraph of any horror novel in the history of horror novels. I happen to love the book, so you can imagine my delight when the new Netflix series of the same name included part of that paragraph in its opening scene. Although Netflix’s series is not a retelling of the original book, it has much of the same feel, and I am very much looking forward to going on this dark ride.

The first episode of The Haunting of Hill House introduces us to the Crain family, parents Hugh and Olivia and their five children, Steven, Shirley, Theodora, and twins Nellie and Luke. Hugh (hello, Elliott from ET!) has purchased Hill House in the hopes of refurbishing it, then selling it for a huge profit. The scene opens late at night inside the house. We hear young Nell Crain crying, and her brother Steven gets up to check on her. When he asks what is wrong, Nell says that she saw the “Bent Neck Lady” again. By then, their father has shown up and gently calms her down, telling her that it was only a bad dream. A few moments later, we see Nellie sleeping and a creepy female figure moves in the background.

It seems this series will jump back and forth between the family’s time living at Hill House and the children as adults, still dealing with the emotional damage that was done during those days. We learn that as children, Luke had an “imaginary friend” named Abigail, that Nellie had apparently seen the “bent neck lady” more than once, and that Shirley and Nellie desperately wanted to find the key that opened the mysterious red door belonging to a locked room upstairs. As the two girls walk away from the door after failing to open it with a skeleton key provided by Mr. Dudley (the caretaker), we see what appear to be shadowy feet under the door.

image courtesy of imdb

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In the present, we learn that Steven writes best-selling books about “true” ghost stories, even though he professes to have never seen one himself; his most famous book is “The Haunting of Hill House,” about his family’s own experiences (and his siblings are NOT happy that he wrote it). He is interviewing a woman who tells her own story, involving her husband.

His car flipped over in a bad storm, and he hung upside down until he died, periodically honking the horn with his badly broken arm. She tells Steven that she almost immediately started seeing her husband’s ghost hanging over her bed, accompanied by dripping water and the sound of a car horn honking, and she no longer sleeps in the room. Steven asks if he can spend the night in the room.

During Steven’s conversation with the woman, his phone rings and he looks at it to see that Nell is calling. He doesn’t answer.

The adult Shirley owns a funeral home with her husband and is counselling a family whose young son refuses to view his grandmother’s body during an open casket funeral. Nell tries to call Shirley, but Shirley does not take the call. She calls Steven to tell him about Nell’s missed call and says she tried to call Luke but couldn’t find him. Steven says that Luke is probably in rehab again, and when he later tries to call Nell back, she doesn’t hear her phone ring.

When we check in on the adult Theo, she is in a bar (wearing long gloves), where she picks up a young woman and brings her home. She rather abruptly dismisses the woman after they have sex, and again dons gloves, stating that she is a germophobe.

We cut to an older Hugh, now in Jacksonville (and played by Timothy Hutton), waking up after a nightmare to his phone ringing. It’s Nell, who asks if her remembers the bent neck lady. When he says yes, she responds, “She’s back.” Although she is in her car, she tells her father that she is home and he tells her he will be there tomorrow. When she hangs up, we see that Nell is actually at Hill House, and she gets out of her car and walks towards the house.

Then, we flash back in time, to see a visibly shaken Hugh waking Steven up in the dead of night. He tells Steven that they need to leave NOW. Hugh opens the bedroom door quietly to check the hallway, and apparently sees something, as he closes and locks it. We can see that his hand is bandaged. The door knob turns several times, as Hugh and Steven stay as quiet as possible.

When it seems that the unseen person is gone, Hugh tells Steven that he is going to carry him, and he wants him to keeps his eyes closed and not look. As he runs down the hallway, we see a female figure running after him, but he makes it out to the car, where the other children are already waiting. They are all upset and crying, asking about their mother, but Hugh does not answer them, he just drives away.