In a move that you’ve not seen since basically every other move I’ve ever done, I hated The Haunting of Hill House. See, most of the other Pajibans loved the dysfunctional family drama set against a literal ghost story. I actually agreed with them up until about episode six. But everything after we find out who the Bent Neck Lady is made me want to punch the screen.
Because that ending, guys? That ending is terrible. Let’s talk. And clearly: spoilers.
1) There’s Literally No Reason To Believe That The Crain’s Moved Past Hill House
The show’s end heavily implies that having faced their past, the Crain children will now successfully move on with their lives either by reconciling with estranged wives, tackling addiction, forming relationships, or needlessly confessing to marital indiscretions which your spouse one-hundred-percent did not need to know about (Yes, Shirley, you. No reason to do that. Kevin didn’t know. He was never going to find out. You just unloaded on him because it made you feel better. If you actually wanted to make amends, maybe just go easier on the guy the next time he screws up? Like your whole thing was that you’re a perfectionist who demands perfection from everyone around you, not that you’re a wanton adulteress. Maybe try fixing the things that are actually the problem, and let sleeping dogs lie). But why? Why should we believe in any way that any of the kids got better after their last experience at the literal death trap?
The idea is that they faced down … something. We’re not quite sure what that might be. They acknowledged that something terrible happened in the house? Because I feel like that was sort of self-evident when your father tore you from your home late at night because your mother killed herself, and now you have to go live with an aunt. Like that feels obvious. Or was it that you acknowledged that ghosts exist? Because it seems like Nellie was the only one who both fully believed that the house housed something sinister and was actively working on healing that trauma. She addressed her sleep paralysis, she went to therapy and took her medication, she met and developed a marriage with a man who loved her deeply. And he straight up died a few months after they got married. Oh, right and then her ghost mom murdered her and caused her to retroactively haunt herself thus dooming herself to the lifetime of the trauma she was trying to overcome. Which, subpoint:
1.a.) Nellie: What The F*ck?
What the f*ck? Seriously, what the f*ck? Like what was that all about? Because from a pure horror perspective, Nellie’s realization that she herself was the Bent Neck Lady, and that this was what her entire life was building to, was horrific and terrible and legitimately frightening. If the show had ended right there, I’d have thought, “Well, that’s something I never need to watch again because it was super disturbing, but I did enjoy it. They got me.” Instead, we find out that Nellie not only had to keep walking around for a bit as BNL but that she had to spend eternity in the house that cursed her with her parents. This is a fiction where the afterlife exists, yes? Because Hill House couldn’t create everlasting souls? So there’s some other kind of afterlife out there, maybe one with Arthur, and Nellie’s just going to chill in a single room for the rest of time with her parents, who I might remind you are still very much in love? (They’re going to bone in front of her, is what I’m trying to say.) Again, what the f*ck?
2) Half of The Crains Are Still Trapped There
You know when Shirley talked about how things said at a funeral are usually a wish? That “they’re in a better place,” or “They look so peaceful,” is what we say about the departed because we don’t really know what happened, but we want something nice for them? The remaining Crain children know, unequivocally, that they’re parents and baby sister are locked, for all eternity (and some boning), in the very house that caused the destruction of their family. And their response is, “Yeah, we’ll let that ride”?
And again, I cannot stress this enough, Nellie is spending all known moments of time in what is essentially her parent’s bedroom.
But don’t worry because it’s not like they’re alone in the murder-house, get-down room. Abigail is there. Which:
2.a) Abigail: What The F*ck?
Hugh can’t burn the house down after he discovers Liv and Abigail’s bodies because Abigail’s spirit is now locked in the house, and Mrs. Dudley won’t leave her. Except the Dudley’s resolutely refuse to stay in the house after dark. So I need you to imagine the conversation that happened mere moments after Mr. Dudley said that line about the precious things bullshit: “Hey, sweetie. You’re going to live here now because Mommy and Daddy have decided it’s more important to keep you with us, as an eight-year-old girl, for all eternity than to accept your death and move on with our lives. Also, we will not be living here with you because this murder-house is filled with some kind of unspeakable evil that will drive us both insane. But don’t worry about all of the terrifying ghosts, including that crazy flapper lady who will most definitely dress you in her dead children’s clothing, because we’re leaving you in the nighttime care of this nice lady who literally just killed you with rat poison. OK, honey, we’re going to go bury your body in the woods now because no one will notice you’re gone or miss you. We gotta go, it’s late, and shit’s about to pop off around here. Have fun!”
3) Did You Know What The Point Was?
I don’t believe that stories need to have set theses. Trying to shoehorn in a specific moral lesson can usually ruin an otherwise good plot. But I do think any work should have an underlying principle or general theme (for example, this post and the whole: Nellie, Watching Her Parents Do It Forever, It Happened thing). But what was the overall take away from The Haunting of Hill House? Because I’ve watched that ending a couple of times now, and the only thing I’m getting is “Fear and love are both irrational, so everything is OK, I guess?” Was that what they meant? You can’t escape your past, you just have to leave it out in the woods completely unguarded so any random teenager looking for a bang spot (not the Red Room. That’s taken) could stumble in, and be trapped for all eternity? You left your parents and sister in an actually haunted, death trap, but everything is cool because we’ve got the gentle chords of the new emo-folk hero? What is even happening anymore? That place killed your mother and your sister! And is the secret spot where the Dudley’s have been committing ghost-child abuse for forty years! IT’S FILLED WITH EVIL, MURDEROUS SPIRITS. BURN IT. BURN IT TO THE GROUND.
Then you can have your goddamn cake.