In adapting The Haunting of Hill House, the iconic 1959 supernatural novel by Shirley Jackson, creator Mike Flanagan stripped the house down to the studs. It’s a risky take, considering the high regard the literary community holds for Jackson’s work. For example, horror luminary Stephen King praised Hill House as one of the two great supernatural novels (the other is Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw) of the last 100 years (though King may have been bashfully forgetting some of his own work).
Flanagan, who aced a King adaptation of Gerald’s Game last year, carefully and respectfully built the Hill House TV series in the image of its source material. It’s a bit of a beautiful illusion though as the framework has been reimagined and updated as a terrifying tale for a new audience on Netflix.
The series, which is now available to stream, follows a group of siblings who grew up in what is now the most famous haunted house in the country. As adults, they’re forced to return to Hill House after a tragedy occurs, and in doing so they’ll have to face ghosts of the past and present. The premise means a larger cast for past and present-day scenes, and new characters that weren’t in the novel or the two previous film adaptations, Robert Wise’s masterclass 1963 film The Haunting and the critically loathed 1999 film of the same name.
Still, the genesis of Shirley Jackson’s novel is still there. “A lot of the elements of those characters carry over to the way we tell the story,” Victoria Pedretti, who plays Eleanor (Nell), tells Den of Geek. Her co-star, Kate Siegel, credited Flanagan’s writing and felt like she didn’t need to add anything over the top for her character. “Mike Flanagan and Netflix did a great job of keeping the integrity of the source material while creating new people,” says Siegel, who plays Theodora (Theo).
All of the actors told us half the work was done when they walked on set. Using an actual mansion to shoot interior shots put the actors into Shirley Jackson’s universe, like the visuals jumped off the page into real life. Used to sets that are divided across sound stages, the cast was able to get lost in the chilling atmosphere of Hill House. According to Oliver-Jackson Cohen, who plays Luke Crain, the set itself was a “fully functioning haunted house.”
For more on how the cast took on the challenge of adapting Hill House and what it was like to work inside a haunted house, watch interview video below!
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