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The Haunting of Hill House

Netflix weds the ghost story and the family drama with smashing success.

Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

The shows that Netflix’s Haunting of Hill House pairs with most comfortably, genre-wise, aren’t necessarily other horror series. Indeed, they might be family dramas like Parenthood and This Is Us. Like those shows, this new series is about a family of adult siblings who are haunted by sad or even tragic pasts. Unlike those shows, that tragedy is the time they all lived in a haunted house that claimed the life of their mother. (Or was it the house’s doing at all?)

Director Mike Flanagan, known for movies like Oculus and Gerald’s Game, takes as its foundation the Shirley Jackson novel that gives the show its title, keeps many of its most elemental tropes, then builds something new out of everything else. The result is deeply creepy but unexpectedly moving, especially in the series’ gorgeously paced midsection.

“Flanagan so profoundly conveys the ferocity with which the past haunts this family, ensnaring them in webs of grief, that it feels as if we, too, are being pushed into an oblivion, so that we no longer have to share these characters’ living nightmares.” Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine

Metacritic score: 80 out of 100

Where to watch: The complete series is streaming on Netflix.

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