With 2 months until Mike Flanagan’s next series, why not look back on the series which blew him up: The Haunting of Hill House? Thanks to Flanagan’s adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s hit novel, it launched a new horror anthology. It also proved just how underrated Mike Flanagan is as a director and writer. So before I get into the list properly here is some history about the show.
The Haunting of Hill House is a limited series on Netflix which ran for 1 season of 10 episodes. The show follows the Crain family who move into the very haunted Hill House in an attempt to renovate it. And if anyone has ever seen any type of these horror films and shows, you’ll know exactly how it ends. This is where the real beauty of Hill House shines through as Mike Flanagan expertly weaves both the past of all the Cranes still living in Hill House and the present of the Cranes away from Hill House but unable to truly separate themselves from its grip.
And yes this is the first instalment in the Haunting anthology which also includes the Haunting of Bly Manor. Oh, also I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the casting which is superb, featuring Victoria Pedretti, Kate Siegel and Oliver Jackson-Cohen amongst others. So without any further delay here all the episodes of the Haunting of Hill House ranked.
10: Open Casket (S1, E2)
Kicking off the list of the best Haunting of Hill House episodes is Open Casket. Now this episode stands out because it fleshes out one specific character: Shirley. Now when Shirley was younger in flashbacks, she encounters a box of abandoned kittens and takes them in. However, when all of them die she’s naturally devastated. This leads her into becoming a mortician as she sees how her mother is ‘fixed’ up. Now I’d be remiss if I didn’t give serious praise to Elizabeth Reaser. This is especially true for the scene where she sees her mother’s ghost. A very strong start to the list and I haven’t even made the obvious Shirley joke at all…….
9: Steven sees a Ghost (S1, E1)
Speaking of Crain Family members seeing ghosts, let’s talk about the opening episode: Steven sees a Ghost. Now despite living through Hill House and writing a book about his family’s experiences, Steven still doesn’t believe in ghosts. Oh, also naturally his siblings are more than a little bit annoyed about the fact he’s profiting from their trauma. Anyway, this episode also sees Kate Siegel shine as Theo Crain in a brief scene in a nightclub. And finally to end on Steven again, the ending of the episode wonderfully encapsulates how wrong Steven was for not believing in what he was writing about.
8: Eulogy (S1, E7)
Now a big event in the Haunting of Hill House’s story is Olivia Crain’s funeral. And this episode focuses on Hugh trying to make peace with his kids, particularly Theo. Speaking of Hugh, this episode dives into his past more at Hill House. Especially it deals with the breakdown of his and Olivia’s relationship. Oh and him discovering a rather nasty secret about Hill House’s original owner. Oh and it wouldn’t be a Haunting of Hill House episode without somebody being attacked by a ghost as seen by Luke, Hugh and Theo all being attacked by Olivia’s ghost. Also, this episode lays the seeds for the arc of the finale with Luke stealing Shirley’s wallet and Theo’s car…..
7: The Twin Thing (S1, E4)
So we’ve had episodes about Steven and Shirley, so now it’s the turn of one of the twins: Luke. Played superbly by Oliver Jackson-Cohen, this episode reveals that Nell and Luke, due to their relationship as twins, can feel each other’s ailments. Case in point, Luke is 90 days clean but when his best friend runs off he tries to find her. However, this brings back memories of his encounter with the Tall Man ghost in Hill House which side note is a legitimately terrifying scene to watch. Anyway, when Steven and Luke’s peer worker finally track him down they reveal the truth about Nell, yet Luke just can’t accept it was suicide. Honestly, enormous props to Oliver Jackson-Cohen because he acts his socks off as Luke here.
6: Touch (S1, E3)
From Luke onto arguably my favourite character: the wonderful Theo Crain. Played brilliantly by Kate Siegel, this episode explores Theo’s gift of being able to perceive feelings and impressions from people and objects by touching them. After finding a hidden door to the basement, Olivia gives Theo a pair of gloves in order to stop her from experiencing this constantly. Oh also, Theo, now working as a child psychologist manages to work out who a young girl calls Mr Smiley. And like most things in the Haunting of Hill House it is horrific….
5: Silence Lay Steadily (S1, E10)
Coming in at the halfway point of the best Haunting of Hill House episodes is the finale: Silence Lay Steadily. Now what makes the finale so good? Well, we finally see all the siblings trapped in the Red Room within Hill House experiencing nightmares as they slowly die inside. That is until they are all saved by Nell who reveals the truth about what the Red Room actually is. Also, we see Hugh make a promise to his dead wife and a really touching ending where everyone celebrates Luke being sober for two years. Genuinely quite a wholesome ending….
4: Witness Marks (S1, E8)
So after Luke steals Shirley’s wallet and Theo’s car, everyone sets out in pursuit of him with them realising he’s going to try and burn Hill House to the ground. On the way there, Steven and Hugh have a heart to heart about the whole seeing ghosts thing and the horrifying truth about what the Crains are to Hill House. Also, we finally see Shirley and Theo make up over the misunderstanding between Theo and Kevin, Shirley’s husband back at the funeral parlour. So all in all a lot happens here.
3: Screaming Meemies (S1, E9)
Given how much she influences the series, it only feels right that Olivia finally gets a standalone episode. And what an episode it is as Carla Gugino really shines as a rapidly deteriorating Olivia Crain. After seeing visions of her children dying and encountering Poppy Hill’s ghost, the wife of the aforementioned Tall Man, Olivia decides she has to take drastic action to save the kids. However, at the last minute Hugh saves Luke and Nell but is unable to save Abigail as he manages to get all his children out of the house. Oh also this episode’s ending is brilliant as Olivia finally goes beyond the point of no return…..
2: The Bent Neck Lady (S1, E5)
Now there is a case for this episode being number one but it narrowly misses out. That being said, The Bent Neck Lady is still a phenomenal episode which sees Victoria Pedretti shine as Nell. Now anyone familiar with Mike Flanagan’s work will probably know that Victoria Pedretti’s characters don’t have the best time. Case in point just when it looks like Nell has conquered Hill House thanks to her sleep technologist husband, Arthur. However it all comes crashing down thanks to her therapist convincing her that Hill House is just a carcass of a house and that she has nothing to fear. Yet when she returns she finally discovers the truth about the Bent Neck Lady who has haunted her since her childhood in Hill House. And if you can put two and two together you can work out who the Bent Neck Lady is…..
1: Two Storms (S1, E6)
And the best episode of the Haunting of Hill House is…. Two Storms. Now what makes this episode so good? Well as the title suggests it deals with two storms. One is the Crains when they were living in Hill House and the other is the Crains all in the funeral parlour for Nell’s funeral. Speaking of Nell, the first storm revolves around her not being seen by the family despite being right in front of them the whole time. The second storm also involves Nell when at her funeral weird stuff starts happening to the Crains as they argue. How so? Well the lights go out, Steve sees Olivia’s ghost and finally everyone starts demanding answers from Hugh about what is really going on. Honestly incredible storytelling here from Mike Flanagan……
What are your favourite Haunting of Hill House episodes? Let me know in the comments below!