Filmmaker Mike Flanagan, the director, co-writer, and executive producer behind Netflix's genuinely unsettling new family horror series Haunting of Hill House, is no stranger to the art of adaptation. Last year his gripping take on Stephen King's seemingly unfilmable novel Gerald's Game terrified adventurous streaming audiences and he's currently working on a big screen version of King's 2013 novel Doctor Sleep, a sequel to the author's snowbound classic The Shining. In between those high-pressure projects, he decided to tackle a seminal work by the late Shirley Jackson, possibly the only horror writer more universally beloved than King himself.
With Haunting of Hill House, which just arrived on Netflix, does Flanagan do justice to the spooky spirit of Jackson's 1959 book of the same name? At 10 episodes, including a few that (unsurprisingly for Netflix) stretch beyond the one-hour mark, the TV version of Hill House is certainly longer than the novel, which doesn't crack 300 pages and can be read in a few sittings. Obviously, girth doesn't always translate to quality -- and Flanagan has taken some significant liberties with the text, using the novel as an inspiration rather than a roadmap -- but Jackson fans should find dark pleasures in the ways the series interprets elements of the story, reconfigures certain characters, and drops sly references to the original.
As one would expect from a story like this getting the prestige TV treatment, the series has a clear reverence for Jackson's work. (At one point, we see Steven, the Crain child played by Michiel Huisman, reading a copy of Jackson's short story "The Lottery," a high school English class staple.) Despite totally reimagining the story -- Hollywood did something similar with both the 1963 and 1999 movies The Haunting -- Flanagan retains the thematic core of the novel in some effective ways that we've highlighted below.