[Banner image courtesy Netflix.com]
April 2017 brought proverbial showers – along with good news for fans of off-kilter psychological horror. Various showbiz news outlets, including Variety, reported that Netflix is bringing a “modern re-imaginging” of Shirley Jackson’s iconic 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House to the small screen.
Mike Flanagan is slated to write, direct, AND Executive produce (with Trevor Macy) the 10 episode series. Genre fans who might not recognize Flanagan’s name – but they’ve probably seen a movie he edited (Oculus, 2013) or directed (Hush and Ouija: Origin of Evil, both released in 2016).
In her SciFi4Me review, Teresa Wickersham noted that Hush was “quite the unexpected gem … a tight, well paced, suspenseful thriller.”
The Haunting of Hill House, Jackson’s most famous novel, stands with her 1948 short story “The Lottery” as masterpieces of subtle, understated terror. Two major adaptations brought Hill House to the big screen; a 1963 feature directed by Robert Wise and a 1999 version directed by Jan De Bont.
Fans of Jackson’s work (and decent cinema in general) can only hope the new series honors the spirit of the former while disregarding the latter. Where Robert Wise kept the mood and approach of Jackson’s novel, De Bont’s attempt aimed for summer blockbuster territory and missed spectacularly on every level. It’s one of the few movies I regret spending my time and money on. Not that I’m in the minority on this – Hill House 1999 “earned” five Razzie Awards nominations and holds a 17% “rotten” rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
There are some interesting literary avenues worth exploring before Hill House debuts on Netflix. A recent biography by Ruth Franklin, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, won a 2017 Bram Stoker Award for Non-Fiction. For fiction in the Hill House vein, the Shirley Jackson Awards (first given out in 2007) recognize “outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.”