The Haunting Hill House: Episode One

The following is a spoiler-filled review and recap of American Horror Story: Apocalypse. Don’t proceed if you don’t want spoilers!

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 The Haunting of Hill House is a Netflix original series created by Mike Flanagan. It is loosely based on the 1959 novel of the same name that was written by Shirley Jackson. Mike Flanagan has also directed some other ‘gems’ such as, Oculus, Quija: Origin of Evil, and Hush. He also created the Netflix original movie, Gerald’s Game, based off of the Stephen King novel. I liked Oculus for the most part, but it definitely wasn’t my favorite movie. I’m not a huge fan of the Ouija series, but I’m very particular about my movies when it comes to ghost/possession style films. I can see why it did as well as it did and why people liked it so much. It just wasn’t my favorite movie. I think that it was definitely better than the first one, so that’s a plus. Hush was definitely my favorite out of the shows/films that Flanagan has created or directed. A movie about a deaf author who not only survives a home invasion, but beats the living shit out of her attempted attacker? Count me in for that!


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Anyway, now that I’ve gone way off topic, let’s get back to the real reason why we’re here. The Haunting of Hill House. I’d been seeing trailers and advertisements all over my Facebook newsfeed like three months before the show premiered. I don’t like seeing trailers for movies or shows on any type of social media, because they sometimes contain important plot points or spoilers that I don’t want to see when I’m trying to look at pictures of French Bulldogs. (don’t judge me!) I have to say that the teaser trailer had me intrigued from the very first time that I saw it. It looked creepy as hell and it was coming out a few weeks before Halloween. Most people go hardcore into watching horror movies for the month of October, trying to get into the spirit and whatnot. But as I’ve heard Erin talk about on the podcast, her entire year is pretty much the month of October. My life is the same way. I thrive on everything that is horror. Films, shows, books, etc. So, needless to say, I was pumped when I saw the trailer pop up. I was glad that they kept it super vague, so that they didn’t give away too much. And it pretty much continued to be that way until they released the entire ten episode first season on October 12th.

So, the beginning of the episode starts off with a man talking about Hill House and comparing it a live organism. He is revealed to be one of the family members that lasted lived in the house.

The entire show jumps from present time to the past, which was a little bit confusing in the first episode… and remedied in later episodes by using supers “then” “2 years ago” etc.

Steven, the oldest of the Crain children, wakes up to the crying of one of his siblings. His sister Theo is in the hallway when he leaves his room, and he tells her to go back to bed, that he’ll take care of it. He goes into the room where his two youngest siblings are, Luke and Nell or Nellie as they often call her. Nellie is crying in bed and Luke is sitting up awake because his sister is upset. All throughout the show things that happen to Nell often affect Luke, and vice versa. They always claim it to be a twin thing. Nellie is awake because of what the family calls the ‘Bent-Neck Lady.’ Before Steven can talk to Nell any more, their father, Hugh comes into the room. He calms Nell down and puts her back to bed, but it is made pretty clear that he doesn’t really believe in the ‘Bent-Neck Lady,’ claiming her to be a nightmare of Nell’s.

As soon as Hugh checks on the rest of the family, he goes back to bed, telling his wife, Olivia that the kids are indeed all alive. The camera pans back to Nell’s room, where Luke is sleeping once again while Nell is lying awake. She turns her back to the wall, facing her brother, and we get our first look at the ‘Bent-Neck Lady.’

This was the exact time that my husband suggested that we turn the lights off, claiming that he couldn’t see. Liar. That bastard just wanted to make sure that it was dark so that I would jump more. Fucker. It kind of brought me back to this time when one of my friends claimed that it would be way scarier if we turned the lights off while she played ‘Silent Hill.’ I still don’t trust her to this day!

After Nell’s nightmare, we go to present day, where a now grown Steven Crain is interviewing a woman named Irene about her husband. He apparently died in a car accident and she claims that he haunts her house. Particularly a room that she shared with him. He died in a horrific accident due to a terrible rain storm. And the woman claimed that the night after he died, she started seeing him in their room. The night after he was buried was the worst, because she woke up due to rain dripping on her face. When she looked up, her husband was hanging there, looking at her.

Steven is taking notes during all this, while recording the story. He is doing research for a book that he is going to write, about haunted places I assume. After hearing her story, Steven decides that he wants to sleep in the room for the night. To see if her husband actually haunts the room.

While looking around her house, he stops to look at her bookshelf, where a bunch of books about haunted places are sitting. All of them written by him. There is a book called the Haunting of Hill House, so as it seems, Steven wrote a book about his family’s house and whatever happened to them. But, according to him, he has never actually seen a ghost.

He gets a phone call from Nell while talking to Irene, which he promptly ignores, and the camera cuts to Nell sitting on a bed, attempting to call her brother. She looks pretty devastated that he isn’t answering her phone call and I mean, come on, who wouldn’t be? Answer the phone when your siblings call, dick.

The next scene is back in the past, where a young Nell is with her parents getting ready for bed. She is going to sleep on the couch, because she doesn’t want to sleep in her room tonight. Even without Luke. Olivia starts the night off with her, laying down on the floor. When she thinks that Nell is asleep, she leaves her alone. A few seconds after Olivia leaves, Nell wakes up and we get to see what I assume is the ‘Bent-Neck Lady’ again. Well, really it’s just her hair. But, still, no thanks.

Next, Nell tries to call her older sister Shirley. Her call is ignored once again, because Shirley is talking to a family about setting up a funeral. She talks to the little boy in the room and he talks about his grandma still visiting him, even though she is dead. She doesn’t blink now, apparently. Gross. When Shirley is done with he family, she listens to the voicemail that Nell left her. Nell sounds panicked and is worried about Luke. Shirley is worried and she calls Steven, but he just tells her that everything is an emergency with Nell. Both Shirley and Steve try to get ahold of Nell, but she doesn’t answer them. It connects later in the season as to why.

Next off we are in a bar, where a woman is drinking a martini. A man tries to get her attention, but totally blows him off. She has her eyes set on a chick at the opposite end of the bar. They make eye contact and smile at each other, but when the woman looks away and then turns back, the first woman is gone. She looks hella disappointed and turns her attention away, only to come face to face with the woman again. The martini drinking woman introduces herself as Theodora and they share a smile again. They are then shown dancing and it quickly cuts to the end of a bedroom scene. The nameless woman is covered in tattoos, which I didn’t expect at all. I don’t know why, but then again, I’m a weirdo. Not only is she covered in tattoos, but she likes to talk a lot, which Theodora doesn’t seem so enthused about. She apparently needs to smoke some weed to deal with this chick, and put on a pair of gloves. She claims to be a germaphobe and then promptly kicks the other girl out. Hit it and quit it, mama!!!

After the nameless girl leaves, Theodora comes out of her place to go sit with Shirley. They talk over some beers, Shirley calls Theo a frat guy. Shirley tells Theo that Nell called her, and it seems like she is really worried about her. Theo admits that Nell hasn’t called her since L.A., so I assume that they had some sort of falling out that will be revealed later. They talk about Luke, and Nell being worried about him. Theo says that Luke will show up when he needs money, because he always does. Shirley isn’t so convinced, but Theo tells her that she needs to have boundaries.

Then we move on Florida, where a man is in bed, clearly alone. As the camera zooms in on him, an arm wraps around his waist and then trails up his arm to caress his face. When he turns around, we only see the mouth of the woman, and then she screams loudly in his face. He jolts awake at the sound of his phone alarm going off. His phone is ringing and he picks it up. It’s his daughter, Nell, and she is in a car. She lies to Hugh and tells him that she is at home, after telling him that the ‘Bent-Neck Lady’ is back. He tells her to go to Steven’s house and that he will see her tomorrow. After getting off the phone, he hurriedly packs a bag, while talking to himself??? Nell is actually back at Hill House, and she is apparently going back in there.

Fuck that, no thank you. There is obviously a reason why you left. Why in the hell would you want to go back? Oh yeah. Because it’s a bad idea, that’s why.

We go back to the past, Hugh wakes Steven up and tells him that they are leaving the house. Steven is confused and doesn’t even have his shoes on. Hugh tells Steven that they are going to run, he’s going to carry him. And he has to keep his eyes closed, no matter what. They run through the house, down the stairs and get in the car. Luke is standing outside of the car, talking about how he saw Abigail standing in the window of the house. Who the fuck is Abigail, first off?

The kids are screaming and Steven is yelling at Hugh about leaving their mother behind. Hugh tells Steven that whoever is in the house isn’t their mother, and they drive off quickly.

Back in the present, Hugh and Steve are on the phone. Hugh tells Steve that Nell needs him and that he needs to get home to her. He’s in the car, rushing to the airport I assume. After Hugh hangs up on Steve, he murmurs into the phone that he isn’t living at home right now.

Nell’s in the house, dancing in a weird white dress. Like okay, cool, not weird at all.

All of the Crain kids, apart from Nell wake up at the same time. Theo clutches her throat, almost like she is being choked. Shirley talks about Nell being in the ‘Red Room.’ Whatever that is. And then we get our first look at who I assume to be Luke. He wakes up in a cold sweat, also clutching his throat. Steven is too when he wakes up. I think that Shirley is the only one that isn’t, but the way her body is positioned, I can’t really tell. After Steve lays back down, something starts dripping on his face. Could it be that Irene was right? Her husband is haunting the room? Steven is a skeptic, so chances are not likely that he believes her. He gets up on the bed and puts his hand up to the ceiling, where a small wet spot has gathered. While he is paying attention to that, two cars outside almost collide and scare the crap out of him.

The next morning, he talks to Irene about what happened the night before. She has a leak in her roof that is causing the water that dripped on her face. The cars almost collided because the stop sign that used to be on that corner was stolen by college kids. Irene questions Steve, asking him why she would want to see her husband hanging from the ceiling. Steve tells her that sometimes it’s better than not seeing them at all.

Like, okay, I guess. I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t think that I want to see any of my loved ones hanging from my fucking ceiling. Hard pass on that. I’m good.

During the talk, Steve flashes back to when Shirl found out about him publishing the book about their family. She compares what he did to essentially raping them, and she’s not far off. Especially if he’s doing it for profit.

He decides that he’s going to write Irene’s story, because she deserves that. Even if he’s doing it for money.

They flash back to Hugh and young Steve sitting with a lawyer. They are arguing about the kids taking the stand. They didn’t see anything, and Hugh doesn’t want them to be exploited like that. Steve says that if they don’t win, Hugh will go away and they will have to go live with their Aunt Janet again. So, I’m assuming that they are talking about their mother dying in the house. Hugh is being blamed for it and the lawyer thinks that the kid’s testimony can help him not do time for the murder. We all know that Steve didn’t see anything, because Hugh carried him out of the house. I just assumed that he did the rest for the other kids, but we will get to that later in the season. Hugh isn’t getting rid of the house, even though his wife died in it. The lawyer thinks that it will look worse for him if he keeps the house. But he’s dead set on keeping it. He just doesn’t want anybody to be allowed in the house, aside from the Dudley’s.

Adult Steve calls Leigh, who I assume is his wife, to warn her about the possibility of Nell showing up at their house. She corrects him and calls it her house. After warning her about Nell, he tells her to direct his sister to him if she shows up. Leigh asks him if there is anything else, attempting to end the conversation. Steve wants to talk to her about them, their situation. So, I guess that something happened to make them separate, or she kicked him out. She tells him that he has to tell her one thing, and is there really any point before ending the call.

We go back to young Steve, talking to Mrs. Dudley. She is collecting china for Hugh to sell. Steve questions her about why they don’t live on the property. She tells him that none of the staff lives in the house and that they haven’t since 1949. Her and Mr. Dudley only stay in the house during the day, before retiring to their house on the outskirts of the property. They are close by, but not in the house. They talk about religion, and my eyes start to cross a little. It can’t be a show about possession and ghosts without talking about God, am I right? Olivia walks in while Mrs. Dudley talks to him about needing Jesus, and asking him if he knows about the gospels. She informs Mrs. Dudley about Steve being well versed in all forms of religion, to which she apologizes to them. Olivia then asks them if either of them have seen Luke recently. Steve tells her that he’s probably in his tree house.

Next scene is young Steve going up to said tree house to tell Luke that their mother is looking for him. He’s making a sign for his space that says, ‘No Girls Allowed.’ Luke asks Steve how to spell it, and informs him that Theo ripped his other sign. While helping him with the sign, Steve looks around the tree house at all of the other drawings that Luke has done. There are a few of the family and then one of a girl in a blue dress. Steve asks Luke who the girl is, and he replies that it’s a girl that he met in the woods. Steve calls her imaginary and Luke gets angry but then they talk about being in the tree house together, the cool kids. Drawing together. One of his drawings is a creepy kid with her mouth open. Gross. I assume it’s a dead child. One of the things that I HATE in horror movies and shows is in fact, dead kids. They creep me out. It’s probably long term PTSD from watching the original Pet Sematary. Dead baby Gage….NOPE. I can’t…. Anyway, Steve asks Luke where he gets the ideas for his drawings while looking down at the creepy kid one. Luke just shrugs at his brother.

Back in the present adult Steve is walking into an apartment building. He sees his brother at the top of the stairs, clutching an iPad and a camera while shivering. Steve assumes that his brother has fallen off of the wagon and is using again. The things that Luke has were things that he stole from Steve’s apartment. Just more evidence for Steve to think that his brother is high and broke into his apartment to steal his stuff for cash. He tells Luke that he needs the iPad, but Luke can keep the camera and he’ll give him two hundred dollars. Luke gives back the iPad and apologizes to his brother, and Steve just says, “I know.”

He walks up to his apartment door to find the lock broken. Luke broke in to steal his things, obviously. Steve just sighs and walks in to set his things down. When he switches the light on, Nell is standing in the corner. She scares the crap out of her brother, but doesn’t say anything. Because that’s not totally weird or anything. Steve goes off on a tangent about Nell letting Luke steal from him. Just standing there and doing nothing. I’m sorry, but if my sister was standing in the fucking dark of my apartment the last thing that I would do would be to be pissed at her for letting someone steal. If I didn’t have a heart attack or pass the hell out from fright, I would be fucking creeped the hell out. Why would this bitch be standing in the fucking corner in the first place??? She still hasn’t said anything, and Steve is just being a fucking dick. As soon as she opens her mouth to speak, his phone rings. Hugh is calling him and Steve realizes that he didn’t give his dad his address. He turns away from Nell to answer the call.

There is a lot of static during their conversation. Hugh tells Steve that Nell wasn’t in L.A., she went back to Hill House. She’s dead. Steve’s confused because he just saw his sister in the corner of his living room. Like any normal sibling would be. He turns around and Nell is right in front of him instead of being across the room. She’s making weird sounds and now her face is getting pale af and her eyes are white. Her mouth opens wide and she kinda looks like the picture that young Luke drew. Steve freaks out and falls on the floor, dropping the phone. The episode fades out with Hugh asking Steve if he was still there. 

The first episode really had me hooked. I was already pretty sold from the previews, but the episode just cemented my excitement. It jumped around a lot and I was super confused at times, but I knew that the show was going to be hella good from the beginning. I mean, not all shows kill off a main character in the first episode. There were still so many unanswered questions that I had, but I figured that they would be answered in time. Re-watching it now, I am seeing things that I missed the first time. I didn’t know what to expect when I first watched it, but now I do.

I was really mad when I watched the first episode because I had to work early the next day. I started the show at like 11 p.m. so I only had the chance to watch episode one. My favorite and least favorite thing about Netflix is the fact that we get the whole season at once. I can spam the season all at once. But if I do, I usually have to wait a fucking year before I get a new season. This time around it was a good idea to space out the episodes.

I recommend paying attention while watching this show. If you try to do other things while watching it, you will miss important things that you need to figure it all out in the end.


Bad Girls Die First: Horror Podcast, Cara Vescio

MADELYN PUHL | Madelyn Puhl, although never published, considers herself an alright author living in Bellevue, Nebraska. When she isn’t attending to the masses with their compulsion and need to shop, she likes to spend her time cuddling with her Boston Terrier, Baxter while watching horror flicks and shows. Zombie movies are her particular drug of choice, no matter how corny or just downright horrible. She is new to cosplay and is working on the finishing touches for her Spider-Woman housewife cosplay. Aside from horror flicks, she really enjoys sci-fi and a good comedy once in a while.

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