It’s no secret that this girl (me) loves TV. Sue me. I particularly love good television to enjoy during the darker evenings and luckily for me, Netflix has delivered another interesting prospect in the shape of this Gothic beauty.
Flashing between past and present, a fractured family confronts haunting memories of their old home and the terrifying events that drove them from it. Based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.
I love this show so much. It’s genuinely one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been frantically messaging my friend Matt throughout to compare notes – I think that’s made me love it even more.
While it focuses on the Crain family and their experiences at Hill House, it flits between past and present day, giving us an insight into the effect everything has had on its troubled members. Dad Hugh has a deeply damaged relationship with his children Nell, Shirley, Luke, Theodora and Steve. Their sense of distrust and anger toward him stems from the dramatic night they all fled the house in the middle of the night. The same night they lost their beloved mother Olivia.
Each has their own demon and as we find out, is haunted by different things. Nell (Victoria Pedretti) has grown up haunted by the continuous appearance of the bent neck lady. Her twin brother Luke (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) sees a tall man in a bowler hat and has a history of substance abuse brought on no doubt by his experiences.
Theodora, Shirley and Steve each have their own cross to bear too. Eldest brother Steve (Michiel Huisman) has cashed in on their childhood by writing a book about Hill House and enjoyed medium success as a writer. This has set him apart from his siblings, particularly Shirley who refuses to take his ‘blood money’ and resents him exploiting the others’ experiences.
As the show progresses we get all the answers we need about what precisely happened at Hill House and to Olivia Crain (Carla Gugino), who we visit in flashbacks and also see from time to time in present day.
I’m not going to spend any more time on the narrative because I want everyone to watch this and love it as much as I do. It’s tinged with so much sadness and grief but it’s beautifully paced, genuinely frightening in places and perhaps most importantly, gives us well-rounded, flawed characters to fall in love with.
While the whole concept of the haunted house is not a new one, the way this series looks at PTSD, addiction and fractious familial relationships makes it feel really rich and satisfying. As the last episode wrapped up, I cried like a baby. It’s so beautiful with an amazing cast.
Not the best film choice for a scaredy cat tbh. This might have to go down as one of my very worst nightmares: unending darkness and exposed windows, no wifi and a mediocre white man bleating on and on about his own superiority.
But imagine all that, without one of your core senses? It’s nasty stuff so it is but let’s move straight in, shall we?
A deaf writer who retreated into the woods to live a solitary life must fight for her life in silence when a masked killer appears at her window.
I had high hopes for this one because the premise seriously messes with my chi. As outlined above, apart from sharks, home invasion is my number one worst fear, in life but particularly within the horror genre. Call it reading too much Robert Harris as an impressionable teen, call it knowing this shit can actually happen but it leaves me feeling icy cold.
Maddie (Kate Siegel) lives a secluded life and I’m mostly jealous of that as the only person she has to deal with is her lovely neighbour, Sarah (Samantha Sloyan). Sounds dreamy despite all the negatives I’ve listed above, obviously. Again, what good can ever come from setting up home in a cabin in the woods?
Anyway, an important detail about Maddie is that she is deaf and mute due to an illness in her past. She communicates just fine via sign language – but this doesn’t stop her family, particularly her younger sister, worrying about her.
It turns out, despite her bravado and insistence that she hasn’t isolated herself, rather she was isolated by what happened to her, Maddie is about to find out what being alone in the face of terror really feels like. I hope she gives it hell…
But first some bonding with Sarah, who pops over to hang with Maddie while she waits for her boyfriend to come round. Maddie is a novelist and has just lent a copy of her latest book to Sarah so they chat about that, the process of writing and the voice Maddie hears in her head, that sounds like her mother’s. Relax, it’s her writer’s voice and it tells her how to end her stories.
Oooh, I sense some foreshadowing…
I should say here that I really thought that Maddie was in love with Sarah, there was something in the way she gazed at her. When they first meet, I was holding out for a tag team smack down to the death. I now accept I may have been expecting a little too much.
Sadly, Sarah bids Maddie adieu after inviting her over for tea and disappears next door. What feels like mere moments later, shit seriously hits the fan and you know what? Isn’t it just like a man to rock up and do abusive things just because he thinks he can?
An aside: after Sarah has left (forever), Maddie takes a phone call from her sister who tells her she should move back to the city. Maddie, of course poo poos the idea. Then her sister literally says Who’s that behind you? Of course our heroine brushes it off as the cat fucking around but honestly, that would be me done right there and then.
She also sets the fire alarm to very very loud so she can feel its vibrations in her sleep, yet she can’t pick up the vibrations of her best friend being slammed (very symbolically) against her kitchen door while she’s doing the washing up? Either this girl has nerves of steel or she has never watched a home invasion movie in her life. Which just can’t be possible, right? Everybody’s seen Home Alone at the very least.
The premise to Hush is very simple and it plays out well. Maddie’s world is very quiet and the terror of what happens to her seems all the worse because of that. The film very cleverly puts you in Maddie’s shoes by keeping sound and dialogue to an absolute minimum, thus ramping up the tension.
The Man (John Gallagher Jr.) simply rocks up and tells Maddie he’s going to have fun with her before killing her. There’s a speech but all I heard was white noise. It made me furious because women have to fear this every day of their lives, in some capacity, be it walking home from work, answering the door to an unexpected bell, whatever.
So fuck you, The Man, the character representing MEN here and the threat they pose to us in every aspect of our lives, every minute of every hour of every day. FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU.
Reading too much into this, maybe? I don’t think so personally. 🤷♀️
As Maddie works her way through all the emotions, from disbelief to anger via paralysing fear, you’re with her. There are moments you’ll want to shout at her for standing around prettily but mostly, she’s a fucking survivor and you’re damn straight she gives The Man hell. She kicks his arse solidly to the death and only one person can make it out, who’s your money on?
There are moments of real tension here and a central character you can believe in. She’s really nice and deserves good things – plus she is genuinely gutted at the loss of her friend (because she loves her, I’m still convinced of it). That said I expected more and I don’t know what it is that’s missing. More of a motive? Oh but I like that The Man does this just because for the reasons outlined above, it allows me to really hate him and root even more for the heroine.
There are a few moments when the inner voice is called back and I think perhaps I’d have liked this to have been explored a little more. The silence works so well but when we suddenly start to hear the writer’s voice, and it sounds like a character we’ve never met, it does feel a little tacked on.
3.5/5. I wish men would hush a little bit more. Anyway, I like this, even if I didn’t fall in love with it, the way Maddie loves Sarah.
What did Jillian think? Would she shoot an arrow into its leg or let it go without a word? Find out here.