The Haunting of Hill House

The feels. The hype. The bent-neck lady.  

The Haunting of Hill House has worked its gnarled, pale fingers into the heart of pop culture where all horror pieces certainly do not get to go. I know, sometimes the crossover success can be hard for us genre fans to deal with. Why is the This is Us crowd obsessed with a show that’s supposed to be OURS? But scary offerings getting mainstream success is good for us. It’s even better when those offerings are quality. Luckily, Hill House certainly is.

Most of you reading this probably already knew (and had hopefully have even read) that the Netflix original show was adapted from the literary classic of the same name written by Shirley Jackson. The adaptation part is pretty loose, but still. A big chunk of you also probably knew that horror fixture Mike Flanagan directed, produced and wrote the series. Both of those facts combined means the expectation for this thing to be phenomenal were high.  I don’t generally approve of book adaptations making such huge changes as this one did, but I am shocked to say I think it was the right choice.


I am a big fan of what I think of as “family-dynamic” horror. I can’t be the only one considering the success of Hereditary, A Quiet Place and a slew of recent novels evoking the same. Siblings and parents can have really challenging relationships with one another. There’s a lot of envy, resentment, dishonesty and other nefarious things happening behind closed doors in most people’s lives. Of course there’s plenty of love and loyalty, too. Putting family members together in terrifying situations is the perfect way to see if they sink or swim as a team!


The story plays out following the five Craine children living their dysfunctional adult lives, as well as flashbacks to a fateful summer they lived at Hill House as kids with their parents. The elder Craines are flipping the decaying old mansion to sell. Sadly, no one told them the place was already densely populated with ghosts. The spirits terrorize most of the crew giving us some of the best utterly unnerving scenes and even jump scares that I’ve seen in a long time. Even though each Craine in turn managed to make me angry with their poor choices and scathing words to each other, they never lost their likeability. I was always rooting for these people and begging them to reconcile, especially the grown kids. Instead of coming off like aging whiners, they made me care for them and have empathy for their all too human flaws in a supernatural setting. Given the events of Hill House, how would the average person cope? It would probably look something like this. I was incredibly pleased by the whole ensemble cast of adult and child actors. The kids, though adorable, are never cloying or precocious. You can see their young personalities emerging into their grown-up counterparts. The parental team (both past and present) were beyond perfection. I guess at this point I’m pretty much convinced Carla Gugino can do no wrong. I wasn’t prepared to love her this much in another horror role so soon after 2017’s Gerald’s Game.  

Putting family members together in terrifying situations is the perfect way to see if they sink or swim as a team!

The production itself is gorgeous. The home is exactly how I wanted it to look. Long, dark hallways full of rooms, antique pieces, a dramatic staircase, even an ostentatiously large chandelier! Last but certainly not least… the ghosts. I am a huge fan of ghosts. I scrutinize them in everything I watch. From their voices to their wardrobe and makeup, these specters need to keep haunting me long after I turn off the TV. Hill House’s ghosts are certainly no exception. Cheesy effects would have cheapened the whole thing and made this a laughable “horror” experience. I can honestly say I don’t think Flanagan pulled any of his punches on this one.

Maybe some non-horror viewers tuned in to be a part of the workplace chatter the next day, or see why their friends are all raving about this thing was suddenly clogging up their social media feeds. But yes, the show is actually pretty damn unsettling. Some of those same curious onlookers were not able to handle it and bowed out before completing the ten episode run. Normal people being too scared to finish watching something is the best endorsement a horror production can have. It’s not always easy to embrace the hype and fanfare, but in cases like The Haunting of Hill House it’s actually worth it.


Dead Digest: The Walking Dead (SSN 8, Ep 16)

Episode 16: Wrath

   The end…is here. Let’s unpack the Season 8 finale.

     Siddique and Rick have a heart to heart about how Carl came to have gotten bit. Siddiq hammers the point home for our fearless leader that when people die, the ideas they pass on to us is all that is left. RICK, ARE YOU LISTENING?

   We officially need more Jerry in Season 9. He has now survived season 8 and I am requiring more Jerry down the line. He is the voice of “us” in all this end of world mess. Not to mention he is a lovable giant and some much needed comedic relief. Shout out to King Ezekiel who was barely in this episode. I miss you, dude.

   Morgan is officially wigged out. Now he’s seeing dead Jared, he’s telling Rick that he and himself are “worse than we were”, because up until (later) tonight, they officially threw the moral compass out of the window. I’m going to have more on that later.

   Camp Negan is marching into battle. We have Dwight in chains, and Eugene has delivered the ammunition. Rick, Maggie, and the best fighters are out on the field of war. Alden, Tara, and some lesser Hill toppers are ambushed by Saviors. Remember, Negan led the heroes to believe one thing, while tricking them with this sneak attack. As Tara and the rest are attempting to evacuate the weak and make a last stand, Cindy and her women warriors come to the rescue! They have cool fire bomb thingys! It looks like we have an official ally heading into season 9.

   I am a huge Eugene apologist. I have been waiting for him to do the right thing for a while now. And after last week when he insisted on escaping back to The Saviors and his factory, I knew he was planning something to aid Rick Co. He took Father Gabriel’s idea and ran with it, making the ammunition so it would backfire into the faces of The Saviors! Later, Rosita punches him for puking on her, but clearly he is back in the fold. The Saviors find themselves out matched, Negan is on the run pursued by Rick, and they surrender.

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    Rick and Negan have another brawl. I was living for these manly fist-fights this season. Rick buys himself some time preaching Carl’s vision of the future message. Then….he cuts Negan’s throat. But it’s okay! He only sliced to maim, not kill! He calls Siddique out to save the man’s life. Rick then gives an (admittedly) beautiful and moving speech in the theme of Carl’s message. We need to work together to fight the dead and make a life and society worth living in. And it works! The war is over. Rick sitting alone mutters, “My mercy prevails over my wrath.” One of those unofficial mantras of the season. Thanks Rick that is what the heck we have been trying to tell you to do for a while now. Tara and the ladies pay a visit to the Sanctuary to help them repair their broken windows. It’s a nice offering of, “See? We can be friends!” Alden is officially staying at Hill Top to help build the machines from Georgie’s Key book!

   Morgan stops by Jadis at the dump and tells her she’s invited to join society. It looks like she is in, and her real name and/or new name is Anne. Please, oh please, let her become a series regular. Morgan is going to chill out there for a while and then…move on. I don’t mind saying as a HUGE Morgan fan, I am not happy with how he has been transitioned to “Fear the Walking Dead.” I’m not giving up, and I am going to follow him over there, of course. But I didn’t feel any sense of closure. I don’t buy him having a nervous breakdown (again) and then needing to leave the group and run away. This math doesn’t work for me.  I just love this character SO much, and in retrospect, I don’t like how his move was handled. I need more from my Morgan! Alas, the end game was getting him off this show and into the other one, so I need to get over it and just deal with my disappointment. Fine.

   Daryl takes Dwight into the woods and sure makes it look like he is going to kill him. We hear Dwight’s pleas, his admission of doing horrible things to survive, and his tearful apology to all those he has wronged. He has never “accepted” the fact that he killed Denise. Dwight knows it was all wrong. It is hard to not have compassion for the guy. I stopped being mad at him a long time ago, personally. Daryl tosses him the keys to the truck and tells him to go find his wife and make the world a better place. Just stay away from Hilltop. Dwight goes back to the rendezvous house and finds a note from his wife, Cherry. Will they find each other? I sincerely hope so. The beauty is in not knowing for now. I will miss Dwight.

   Maggie didn’t take Negan’s injury well. She cried, screamed, and had to be held back while begging Rick to avenge Glen and kill Negan. We see Maggie, Jesus, and Daryl meeting in secret later on. She is concocting a plot to, “show Rich and Michonne that they were wrong.” Maggie, I don’t love this color on you. And I really don’t like Daryl being involved. Not to mention, what the heck is Jesus doing there? You three need to calm down.

   Rick and Michonne pay Negan a visit in the hospital. They lay out the plan to him that he is going to live out the rest of his days in a prison cell. He will be doing nothing but dwelling on the fact that his methods didn’t work, and civility won over fear. I am so happy Negan is not dead. I was 100% not ready to let this character go yet. The warring between the two camps needed to end before it got tired, but Negan has a lot more story to give us.

   There we have it! Another season of TWD in the books. If anyone needs me I’ll be in my pillow fort, crying.


Dead Digest: The Walking Dead (SSN 8, Ep 15)

Episode 15: Worth

   This is our last recap before the season finale! Let’s dive in…

     We start off with Carl’s voice over narration while his dad read’s the letter he wrote. Carl was really pushing the whole “peace with Negan” thing. Also more notes about a bigger world out there for them to be a part a part of, The Saviors being normal people just doing their best to survive, and other really nice things that I’m sure neither Rick nor Negan will heed.

   Eugene gets kidnaped by Daryl and Rosita out at his bullet factory. They don’t plan to kill him, but Eugene freaks out and manages to escape. Since we know Eugene is a coward and can’t fight, his only line of defense is distraction. And OH DEAR GOD HE PROJECTILE VOMITS his way out of the situation. He makes it back in time to ramp up his workers to get ready for war tomorrow. Gabriel is still there and looking very green. He tried to sabotage the bullets but gets caught. What will become of him and Eugene in the finale?!


      Negan “makes up” with Dwight and Simon. We also learn that Simon was the REAL psychopath who happily massacred all the menfolk in (what is now) Cindy’s ladies-only village. Simon calls a meeting of people who want to mutiny, thinking Dwight is one of them. Simon wants to march to Hill Top and leave no one alive. Of course Dwight double crosses him and everyone is quickly killed by Negan and his loyalists. It turns out that Gregory is back at The Sanctuary but is also a double-agent working for Hill Top. He runs back to give Maggie & Rick with Negan’s war plans.

   Negan isn’t one to back down from a fight, so he challenges Simon to a bare-knuckle brawl for control of The Sanctuary. Jadis gets her justice as Negan strangles the life out of his former general. Simon is now an undead “guard” lashed to the fortress gates. Good riddance to an awesomely bad character who made life more interesting around here!

   We also get to see who Negan picked up in the car last episode. It was Laura! I don’t think I ever knew this character had a name. But she was the one who used to call Eugene “haircut.” Anyway, she saw Dwight’s betrayal, and now has ratted him out to Negan. Negan, having known this, deliberately gave Dwight the WRONG battle plans. So now Rick and Maggie have bogus information that will probably mean death for a lot of Hill Toppers. Negan is also keeping Dwight alive… for now. I’m sure he has a fate worse than death planned for his deception.

   Aaron is staging a hunger strike outside Cindy’s village. He’s been there for days hoping to convince the women to help fight. After having little to no food or water, fighting walkers, and pleading his case, he finally passes out. Did his plan succeed? I sure hope so. But we won’t know until the finale. Sigh.

   Michonne gets on the radio to read Negan Carl’s letter. The boy’s words move him to tears. But I guess Negan has just had a really bad day. I mean, his two top generals have MAJORLY betrayed him, and he had to kill one. And Rick’s defiance has made him feel insecure. So he tells Michonne it’s all too late and he needs to come kill them all. SO what the hell is going to happen on the finale? We are being promised all-out war. Is there any stopping it? Will we see Jadis, Georgie, the helicopter, Cindy and her warrior women come riding into battle? Someone hold me.


Dead Digest: The Walking Dead (SSN 8, Ep 14)

Episode 14: Still Gotta Mean Something

    We could also subtitle this episode, “how bad will Rick f*ck things up tonight?”

     Remember how Jadis kidnapped Negan? Yup, she’s got him back at the trash lair. He’s trussed up like a roasted chicken while pleading to her that he’s not her enemy. He’s right, but she doesn’t want to listen. She’s planning this elaborate scheme involving a flare, some guns, roasting Lucille on a pyre, and not to mention she’s got this weird contraption of sorts. It’s a walker welded onto a flat cart. Like, one of those big, flat carts for shopping at warehouse stores. It doesn’t take long for Negan to get the upper hand and they’re in a stand-off situation. In all that confusion a few episodes ago, Negan did get Lucille back! But now Jadis is threatening to burn it/her, and he’s threatening to do the same to her precious photos of her now dead commune family. They bond in their shared heartache and Negan spills that Lucille was, of course, his wife’s name. He swears to her that he will settle the score for what Simon did to her people. Last but not least, Jadis’s detailed yet mysterious plan somehow involved using the flare to signal a helicopter. Yes, THE HELICOPTER we’ve seen glimpses of over time now. Will we finally meet the wielders of said helicopter in the season finale? Jadis also wears flannel shirts now and has a tidy little apartment in the midst of her dumpster domain.


        Rick won’t read Michonne’s letter from Carl when offered. It seems he hasn’t even been able to read his own. He’s also still hoarding Negan’s letter. More on this later.

   King Ezekiel calls out Carol for being a big scaredy-cat since she won’t go looking for little Henry. He’s still MIA after letting this prisoners escape. She decides instead to go out with Morgan while he hunts those same POW’s down to kill them. Carol doesn’t actually care about killing those people, she’s just worried about Morgan because he’s still not doing so great. He’s still hallucinating and acting squirrely. They split up when she wants to follow a path that points to Henry being alive and in one direction, and Morgan wants to keep tracking The Saviors going in another. Carol was saved by him once, and she wants to return the favor. My poor Morgan cannot let this whole vengeance thing go though.

   Morgan runs into Rick! Rick is also seeking a bloody revenge. They get captured by the runaway Saviors, led by Jared. Jared is that long-haired crazy one who ACTUALLY killed Henry’s brother a while back. Rick swears his word that if they help him and Morgan go free, they can join Hill Top. Jared isn’t buying it, but the others do. They let them loose to help fight a herd of walkers who burst in. Rick and Morgan turn on their new “allies” and kill them. Rick, this is not in the Carl code of ethics! You’re doing it all wrong, man! Morgan slowly feeds Jared to some walkers. He also makes his big “reveal”. That truth being the knowledge none of us die because in the end, we all turn into the walking dead ourselves. Rick presses him as to why Morgan saved him alllllll the way back at the start of the series. Morgan begrudgingly answers that he did it, “because my son was there.”

   Carol finds Henry! She took that leap of faith to search for him and finds the boy about to be eaten by dead people. Once back home, she lets Ezekiel see her vulnerable side. She talks about her daughter, and finding herself based on the family she’s built. It’s all actually very sweet. Rick and Morgan make it back to base too. Morgan doesn’t get the hero’s welcome from Henry he was hoping for when he tells him he killed Jared. Morgan then literally goes away to cry alone. My heart breaks.

   Rick FINALLY reads his letter from Carl! Tara seems to be okay! She and Daryl make up. She’s convinced Dwight had no choice but to shoot her (just to injure, not kill) and used a non-tainted arrow on purpose. Daryl is now teaming up with Rosita to kill Eugene, so let’s see how that one is going to play out. Negan is driving home when he finds someone on the side of the road and gives them a lift. Who is this mysterious individual?? When Negan arrives at The Sanctuary, he asks the guard to keep his return a secret. In his own words, “Daddy’s home.” Yikes.


Dead Digest: The Walking Dead (SSN 8, Ep 13)

Episode 13: Do Not Send Us Astray


     Dear Morgan- You know I will always love you. You’re my second favorite character after Daryl! I will be devotedly following you over to, “Fear the Walking Dead.” I’m sure the showrunners are shipping you off in the hopes that other fans will chase after you, as I am promising to do. I’m a little worried about you though. You’re wigging out and hallucinating Gavin’s bloody corpse is stalking you. It’s a little…concerning. Let’s not bring this baggage into your new show, shall we? So, uh, does this mean he has to take creepy little Henry with him?

     Simon and his Saviors show up at Hilltop to rain down some extermination. Maggie tries to barter using the POWer’s. Simon has already written those fools off as dead, so that doesn’t work. Some of the captives are a little peeved at this. We get a nice shot of Daryl is full baddassdom riding on his motorcycle whilst firing a machine gun. God bless the apocalypse. Siddique is busy working his way into my heart. He’s so kind! Compassionate! Strong! Rick snaps at him for offering a condolence prayer for Carl, because I guess he’s still a little touchy. Tara gets winged by an arrow, but she survives the battle. Many on both sides do not. Hilltop proves WAY better at war strategy and The Saviors retreat.

     Daryl and Tara have a tense conversation about how Tara has decided to not kill Dwight anymore. He took her girl’s life, but spared hers. She also magically remembered that she used to be in THE GOVENOR’S ARMY. Yeah, remember him? That megalomaniac with an eye patch? Tara was once on the wrong side too, because she needed to survive at the time. Well, Daryl isn’t so convinced.

     Michonne tries to make Rick eat a turnip. But he’s too busy feasting on grief and guilt. He almost blew the whole battle showing up late. He’s brawl with Negan wasn’t in the agenda, thus making him arrive late to the defense.  

     Maggie is super amazing even when she makes me frustrated. This week she is really grappling with being “a good leader” (as she is fondly called by several characters), and with wanting revenge for her husband’s murder at the “hands” of Negan and Lucille. That one really “sensitive Savior” prisoner who’s always trying to reason with Maggie? He has a name! Alden, apparently. I like him!

     The saddest part of the episode is coming up. Tobin dies. Well, not right away. It takes a little bit. We haven’t seen Tobin in A WHILE now. But when our troop first came to Alexandra he was big. He’s a really nice guy who had a huge crush on Carol! They even kind of dated! He wants them to be together “after this is all over.” Carol’s problem is, she doesn’t believe anything will ever be over. She thinks they’ll all be warring and suffering till they just die! Tobin was injured with one of The Saviors tainted weapons. So he ends up dying/turning and goes on a biting and zombie making spree. The Hilltop is in chaos! The gang doesn’t take long to piece together what happened.


        Meanwhile, little Henry isn’t doing so great. Still trying to avenge his brother, the boy (he’s about 11?) goes out to the POW pen with a very large gun. In the throes of the walker panic/outbreak, the bad Saviors easily overpower him and escape. Alden and some others stay behind to help Hilltop. They are upset with Simon for leaving them, and it’s not like they really cared about “being Negan” anyway. They just wanted to be alive.

     So where is Henry? Right now, he’s MIA. What does this mean for Tara? Will we be losing this beloved, kickass, queer lady soon? Please no.