Warning: The Haunting of Hill House Spoilers
I am still emotionally digesting The Haunting Of Hill House after gorging on it throughout the weekend.
It’s going to take a lot of feel good comedies and baking shows to mentally erase some of the grimmer images; Nell’s corpse crying for her mother on the mortuary table, Luke trapped and screaming in the dumbwaiter, Shirley’s dead kitten twitching with insects.
The final episode itself was a psychological labyrinth of grief, anguish and desolating realisations. Nell’s posthumous monologue to her siblings shattered me, while Hugh and Stephen’s final, loaded goodbye still haunts me.
However, it appears we got off lightly compared to what was originally in store…
Episode 10 wrapped up on a hopeful note, with each of the four remaining siblings taking significant steps forward with their personal lives.
Stephen reconciled with his wife, Leigh, while Shirley was finally honest about her marital indiscretions. Theo moved out of the guest house and even chucked her signature gloves in the trash. Best of all, troubled Luke was shown looking healthy and clean as he celebrates with his brother and sisters.
Even among the dead there is a little warmth to be had, with Hugh, Olivia and Nell shown united and embracing in their shared afterlife. But things were nearly quite different.
Director Mike Flanagan, whose name should surely be now listed with the horror greats, told The Hollywood Reporter:
We toyed with the idea for a little while that over that monologue, over the image of the family together, we would put the Red Room window in the background.
For a while, that was the plan. Maybe they never really got out of that room. The night before it came time to shoot it, I sat up in bed, and I felt guilty about it. I felt like it was cruel. That surprised me. I’d come to love the characters so much that I wanted them to be happy.
I came in to work and said, ‘I don’t want to put the window up. I think it’s mean and unfair’. Once that gear had kicked in, I wanted to lean as far in that direction as possible. We’ve been on this journey for 10 hours; a few minutes of hope was important to me.
I know I speak for plenty of Hill House fans when I say we loved the character development as much as the terror. To leave matters on such a bleak note would have taken away from the human journeys at the heart of the show.
Musing over the amended – and far superior – ending, Flanagan added:
Steven inherits Hugh’s responsibility, and the house is still standing. It’s still haunted, and everyone’s still trapped. But they’re together. It is a little bittersweet.
When we think about families, that’s what we’re left with. We’re stuck with our family no matter what, and even if it’s not going to be OK, even if we’re never going to get back what we lost, at least we can find a way to live with that.
That little bit of comfort meant a lot to me. We could have gone pretty cynical, and almost did. But I find myself glad that we didn’t.
Which ending do you prefer?
The Haunting Of Hill House crept onto Netflix as of October 12.
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