Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House
Season 1, Episode 6: “Two Storms”
Directed by Mike Flanagan
Written by Flanagan & Jeff Howard
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Bent-Neck Lady” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Eulogy” – click here
With Nell (Victoria Pedretti) in her casket all fixed up, Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser) and Theo (Kate Siegel) look over her corpse. “She looks dead,” Theo says, remarking the stupidity of people saying the dead look like they’re sleeping. Shirley, as a funeral director, tells her sister those are just people “wishing” for what they’d like to see/think in the wake of a death. The sisters are imagining the state Luke (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) might be in just as he and Steven (Michiel Huisman) arrive. Luke finds it extremely difficult to be there and the family comforts him, particularly Steven. The two brothers go together to look at Nell, each of them trying to stay tough. Steven takes it slightly worse, probably due to his recent change in beliefs re: ghosts. Doesn’t help he’s seeing more of them, like his dead mother Olivia (Carla Gugino) creeping around the viewing room.
The others ask Steven about the details of what happened to Nell. He tells them all he knows, what he heard from their father Hugh (Timothy Hutton). Shirley obviously knows their sister hanged herself. And while they’re chatting, their father finally turns up. Not the family reunion any of them would’ve hoped for, not that any Crain reunion would be too thrilling. It’s awkward, and dad struggles seeing all his kids together as grown adults. He keeps seeing them as children— even dead Nell in her coffin. Lurking in the background is the Bent-Neck Lady herself, watching her family grieve.
Hugh goes to the bathroom and walks right through his own mind into Hill House. He remembers his younger self (Henry Thomas) coming down to the foyer after hearing a loud crash, discovering the downed chandelier. Simultaneously, Olivia was wandering the house, like she was sleepwalking, and heard the noise. The whole family woke up. Outside a storm raged with hailstones, and a window broke in Shirley’s (Lulu Wilson) room. Mom tried keeping her kids distracted so they weren’t upset. But soon the power went out, frightening them. Little Nell (Violet McGraw) saw the Bent-Neck Lady in the shadows, and Olivia assured she saw things in that house, as well. While the family gathered flashlights Nell disappeared in the darkness, so they all went looking for her.
At the funeral home, the siblings reminisce. Steven tries remembering a “made up word” Nell would use. Theo remembers it was “pufflelope” – a big, puffy envelope – which came from her mother talking about sending letters to Santa Claus warm on their way to the North Pole. This comes from Hugh, who does his own reminiscing about his daughter. He tells his kids Nell never asked for anything herself, only asking Santa to bring gifts for her brothers and sisters. Shirley’s angry her sister took her life, particularly since they all believe their mother committed suicide, too.
Luke offers a happy memory about camping in the backyard, interrupted by Steven wondering if Nell’s monthly letters to their father might’ve indicated her psychological state. They all begin piecing together the last moments of Nell, the calls she made. Hugh tells his kids what his daughter said about the Bent-Neck Lady, and Steven yells at him about “hereditary mental illness.” Dad keeps on talking to his dead wife, which none of his children quite understand, looking like he’s talking to himself. All the secrets come out now, as Shirley flips at Steve for how he “mass marketed” their family’s pain, then Theo reveals taking money from the book to get her PhD, totally enraging her sister. The shitty cherry on top? Kevin (Anthony Ruivivar) finally tells his wife they took the “blood money” from Steven’s book— the reason for his second chequebook. Shirley tells both Kevin and Theo to leave.
Before anybody leaves the funeral home, Shirley sees Nell with buttons on her eyes, similar to the old tradition of placing coins on the deceased’s eyes to pay the ferryman of the dead. She thinks somebody was playing a practical joke. Then the power goes out, just like that night in Hill House decades ago. Hugh sees his daughter, the Bent-Neck Lady, standing in the shadows. He remembers that long ago stormy night, when he and Olivia searched for their daughter. They found bits of damage from the storm, from leaks to broken glass. And around them, the ghosts of the mansion lurked quietly. Olivia could see them herself. Elsewhere, Hugh thought he was following his wife through the halls only to realise the ghosts of Hill House were toying with him. After finding his wife, the two of them heard their children screaming after seeing some “big wolf“-type creature with “glowing red eyes.” And out of nowhere, Nell turned up.
Hugh and Luke talk about who put the buttons on Nell’s eyes. They both know it’s of supernatural origin, not saying it fully out loud. Luke has also started figuring out his mother didn’t kill herself, just like Nell didn’t, either. This makes Steven angry again. Until Hugh starts talking about Hill House being the reason for their family’s misfortunes. They’re cut off by Nell’s casket tipping over and the lights coming back on, like Nell herself was trying to tell them to stop fighting. Shirley goes to get her kit so she can fix her sister’s makeup, finding Kevin and Theo in a compromising position together.
That night at Hill House, Nell returned, but said she never left. She was calling out to them, invisible to their eyes. An overarching, tragic metaphor for her entire life, as most of the family, apart from Luke and Hugh, didn’t believe what she was telling them for years about that place.
“Nobody could see me”
Father Gore’s seen other reviews saying The Haunting of Hill House isn’t a good adaptation and that it isn’t anything overly special. BOLLOCKS! Shirley Jackson’s novel is fantastic, one of the best. But did we need another remake of The Haunting? No. Flanagan and the other writers have given us a fresh, new adaptation. Like already stated on this site, the human drama is what roots the supernatural, something Flanagan picked up from one of his influences over the years, Stephen King. And it’s the same throughout the rest of the director-writer’s work. Time and time again he returns to the humanity at the centre of the ghost stories he tells— a huge reason Father Gore keeps returning to his films, and why this series will remain an all-time horror great.
“Eulogy” is next.