First, some good things about Netflix’s THE HAUNTING OF HILL. I think that it was well-acted, particularly the matriarch Olivia (Carla Gugnino). I liked that they explored and expanded upon Theodora’s sexuality. The subtext, of dysfunctional relationships and mental illness, was spot on. However, I ultimately thought it was disrespectful to the source material.
The title raised certain expectations. Imagine if I wrote a tv series called WUTHERING HEIGHTS and it was about a modern couple dealing with infertility issues. And Cathy was a frustrated novelist writing a cheap romance novel called “Wuthering Heights.” And Emily herself was a character, who was a New Age doula. It would make as much sense as this adaptation. The heart of the novel is about Otherness. This was just a family drama with some supernatural elements that used the architecture of the novel–characters named Luke, Eleanor, Hugh and Theodora, a haunted mansion–and ignored the theme and mood.
I especially depised the portrayal of the writer, Stephen. He was supposed to be a hack writer who mined family trauma for filthy lucre. That’s not how writing—especially successful writing—works. If anything, Stephen should have been the one who believed in the ghosts, and the drug addict brother Luke should have been the one who was in denial. To write, you have to believe in that your words and your paper people are real. Finally, making one of the most chilling paragraphs ever written the start of the hack writer’s exploitative Ghost Adventures-styled book was a low point. (Side Bar: There was a character named Shirley; why couldn’t she have been the stand-in for Ms. Jackson?)
Finally, the nature of the haunting was wrong. The harried mother trope, at the center of the show, is played out, and subverts the meaning of the original novel, which centered non-traditional female characters (the misfit Eleanor, the bisexual artist Theodora).
If you’re going to tell a different story, why have the baggage of a well-known, classic novel? I actually think the series would have worked better with a separate title. (And if they got rid of that ridiculous writer subplot; Jackson was one of the best writers and to have a shout-out to her as bad writer was a terrible idea). The HILL HOUSE reminds me of how bad the LeGuin/Earthsea adaptations were—they took the plot and some of the ideas, and left behind the atmosphere and subtext.