Film and TV can be seen as nothing but a trivial pastime, however, at times you can stumble across a series or film that may offer something more thought provoking. The Haunting of Hill House, a series available to watch on Netflix, is one example of a thought provoking series as it tackles trauma, grief and mental health.
For those of you who are yet to watch it, be prepared, as there are SPOILERS ahead.
The Netflix phenomenon caused a big stir initially when it dropped and has since received rave reviews. Even the horror writer icon Stephen King commented on how great a series it was, describing it as a ‘work of genius’. The adaptation is based on a book of the same name written in 1959 by the horror writer Shirley Jackson, who King also believes would be proud and approve of the adaptation.
Set in the modern day, the series follows the Crain family who move into the frightening property with the intentions of renovating it to sell on. Their time and experience within Hill House unravels over ten episodes, keeping viewers peeping from behind a pillow the entire way.
Although the initial response from many was that it is just another ghost story being etched into the viewers nightmares, this is where the Haunting of Hill House actually differs from other plots in the paranormal genre.
In a day and age, where there is so much talk about dealing with grief and the mental health implications, it is not rare to come across a film or a TV series that touches on those matters, however this series takes a different angle. If you delve deep enough into the psyche of the series, you will find it tackles the five stages of grief through the family.
The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Each Crain can be easily placed into the stages, by age in fact, Steven is denial, Shirley is anger, Theo is bargaining, Luke is depression and Eleanor is acceptance.
Within the series Steven denies lot of things, foremost that anything paranormal exists in this world, especially at Hill House, this denial can be pushed further to that of the denial of the grief that has wracked his entire life and family.
Shirley has a lot of anger built up in her through the years – the loss of her mother being the first time her extreme animosity came to the surface. This anger, be it directed at her mother or her siblings, stems from the grief of losing people in that matter in her life.
Although initially not as obvious as the rest of the children, Theo has a more interesting stage attached to her with bargaining. With her bargaining is all about power; the power to make her own choices, and to change what is happening in her life. She begs for her numbness to go away at one point, proving that bargaining is a stage always seen during grief, offering something in order to feel again.
The two other stages are that of the younger siblings. Luke is depressed – his use of drugs and constant looking to ‘get high’ is his way of dealing with the depression. His depression has been caused by the turmoil and trauma he felt as a child, making it the most obvious on-screen stage of grief.
Eleanor, the youngest sibling, is the most accepting of grief. Unfortunately her acceptance is through her own death. She tells her siblings “There’s no without. I’m not gone. I’m scattered into so many pieces, sprinkled on your life like new snow” in an effort to clarify that she is okay, she is happy and that she accepts all that has come unto her.
The story goes further than your average horror series in having little nuggets like this that layer the series and allows viewers to peel back these layers and find some depth. Whether it is correct or not, the fact that there is the excitement in finding more meaning in a series shows that not everything is lifeless, even when ghosts are involved.
What strikes me as the most important fact to notice here is that through all the stages of grief, every one of them comes to a conclusion in one way or another. Whilst it may not always have been the best case scenario and whilst grief is not always linked completely to mental health, there has been some well planned delving into the no-longer taboo subject of mental health. Many viewers have recognised the themes int he series as coping mechanisms of the five stages.
Even with the deaths of two of the main characters in the series – one to do with mental illness and the other to do with overcoming grief – the other characters show the viewer that although dark and traumatic experiences may occur in our lives, there is always a way through it.
The Haunting of Hill House shines a light on grief, trauma, ghosts and touches on mental health in a way that doesn’t make it too cliché and deals with all of these factors with an unflinching hand.