Monday, October 29, 2018

in the red room

As I mentioned before, one of my recent obsessions has been watching (and re-watching, then re-re-watching) Netflix's Haunting of Hill House.  In fact, I caught the first episode at my dad's house and then promptly re-subscribed to Neflix to watch more after un-subscribing for a few months in favor or Prime and HBO. I am always in search of horror that is actually scary to my desensitized sensibilities, and the best I've hoped for in past years is at best creepy and atmospheric (Heredity hit this criteria through most of the film, though I had other issues with the film falling back on demonic possession when it could have went in more interesting directions).  Or the general atmospheric strangeness of something like American Horror Story (which is actually better at more human nature scariness all along.) Or you have something like Sharper Objects, not really horror, but a slow building southern gothic dread with so many ghosts (real or imagined).

This show comes from the director of another recent favorite Hush, which hit high points on breathless suspense, is all of these things above wrapped up in some fucking scary shit sudden moments that left my scalp tingling and others that have haunted me for the past two weeks (that kitten burial comes to mind). It's all so well wrought in structure and holds this tension between an exploration of psychological trauma and supernatural trauma beautifully. I have said on facebook I spent half of it with my heart in my throat and half with it leaping into my lap. It's rare something hits on all these levels--emotional, suspense, atmospheric, narrative, structural. In the course of a single episode I could be both crying and scared shitless--sometimes at the same time. And yet at the same time, entranced by the artfulness of something like the "Two Storms" shot in single panning shots crossing time parallels.  It's a mystery to be pieced together, but it doesn't demand and frustrate in the way something like West World or even Sharper Obects in trying to make sense of things. Like a good poem, I can experience it on one level and completely enjoy, yet there is so much there if you scratch the surface and pay attention. As I've been rewatching, I've noted things I missed the first time that only convince me of it's genius more.  It's also really beautiful in terms of setting--the house itself both beautiful and scary even without any ghosts--that ill-fated spiral library staircase, the mysterious locked door of the red room, statuary that may be statue/may be a ghost. There are also hidden ghosts, which are fun to find.

There is talk of a second season, but I feel like this particular family's story is complete, but it's an old house, and I'd love to see more from the other spirits which inhabit the space with the house as the shows center piece--the old bed-ridden woman, the bowler hatted man, the insane flapper.  I've been reading a book on horror in architecture as research for a future project, so the house itself as a monster or monstrous is fascinating to me.

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