If you were paying any iota of attention to your social media feeds this weekend, you probably noticed at least a few people talking about The Haunting of Hill House. The new Netflix series is an adaptation of (or as writer-director Mike Flanagan calls it, “a riff on”) Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name.
I saw the show advertised front and center on my Netflix homepage on Friday, but I immediately shrugged it off as a horror movie (not generally my cup of tea) and set about watching Atypical instead. UNTIL, however, I saw that my friend Nancy had tweeted this:
stayed up til 5AM watching the haunting of hill house but WORTH IT
— Nancy Lu (@retroglo) October 13, 2018
This prompted me to do a quick Google search, and (no joke) the thing that sold me was this Autostraddle article. (I just want people to be gay and do crimes, you guys.)
Armed with the baseline knowledge that the ten-episode series involved a family, a haunted house and a brooding lesbian, I was ready to take the plunge yesterday afternoon. AND IT WAS A LOT. Good, but A LOT.
I don’t want to give away too much background info here (read: basically ANY background info here), because I think that’ll take away from your viewing experience. But as someone who gets V. STRESSED OUT watching anything in the realm of horror, I do want to offer you some tips for how to survive ten hours of jump scares by yourself so you’re not just walking into this situation totally blind:
- Definitely begin watching as early in the day as you can. This is partially because things are less scary in daylight (duh), but also because you (presumably) will want to get a decent night of sleep. And that just cannot be done if you start watching anytime after 6pm. I accidentally nailed it with a 3:30pm start time, because I was able to pound all ten episodes and fall asleep before spooky o’clock, aka 3:00am, or (in the show) 3:03am.
- “But what if I want to space out the episodes, Megan?” Stop talking crazy. You do not want to space these episodes out. You’re going to want to finish them all in rapid succession. Midway through you’re going to start feeling like you made a huge mistake re: anxiety-induced nausea, but JUST FINISH WHAT YOU STARTED, GODDAMMIT! Also, you are going to need some level of conflict resolution if you plan to sleep peacefully ever again. (And there is some level of conflict resolution at the end.) So again, don’t even entertain the idea of not binge-watching Hill House.
- Similarly, have the right kinds of provisions on hand. I’m not saying you have to consume alcohol to power through all ten episodes, but as a person who drinks, there were several times I wished I were downing a beer to quell the fear. And because I hadn’t stocked the fridge, and the idea of taking a break to pop down to the bodega was unthinkable, I just didn’t have that option. On a similar note, would I recommend taking drugs while watching Hill House? No, no I would not.
- Do not watch Hill House in an unsuitable environment. What I mean by that is, if you live someplace spooky, do not watch Hill House. Now, the definition of “spooky” is kind of broad in this context. If you live in a big old estate out in the middle of nowhere, that’s a no-brainer. But if your current living situation contains even one of a few creepy elements that play roles in the show (like weird doors or crawlspaces that you’re not really sure why they’re there, spiral staircases, statues, woods, rodents causing scratching sounds in the walls, loud pipes) then you might also consider avoiding a watch. Unless of course you need a kick in the ass to move, in which case BE MY GUEST!
- Really lean into the sad parts of the story, ’cause they’re in there. While sadness is emotionally taxing in its own way, I much prefer it to raw terror. HARNESS THE TEARS TO COMBAT THE FEARS.
- Pace around the room and yell at the screen. It won’t change what’s happening, but you will have a lot of nervous energy to expel, and this will help.
- Tip #2 might seem like a distant memory by now, so I just want to remind you – DON’T GIVE UP! I was ready to hurl myself out my second story window by episode four, because it was just TOO MUCH STUFF, and the idea of gulping down six (technically seven) more episodes felt like an insurmountable task. But I also knew I would be gripped by fear and sleeplessness if I didn’t commit, so I buckled the fuck up and got it done, and IT WAS THE BEST DECISION I HAVE EVER MADE. At least in a Netflix context.
- Project your own problems onto the Crain family as they grapple with grief ‘n guilt ‘n ghosts! Very cathartic! Unexpected bonus!
- Have a plan in place for when you finally finish all ten episodes. I parachuted into dumb, happy YouTube videos territory as soon as the credits rolled, and I suggest you do something similar re: upbeat mindlessness to shift your brainwaves before bed.
- Use this experience as a cautionary tale not to try to flip a house in eight weeks for profit. Just don’t do it. Ever. “But it’s fictional, Megan!” I SAID NO, GODDAMMIT!
So those are my tips for getting through Hill House in one go as a solo watcher. I wasn’t sure I’d be glad I took a chance on the series before I finished it, but now I can say with confidence that it was 100% worth the gamble. I did not have any nightmares, although I find myself unable to stop thinking about it today. Probably will watch again. Definitely will employ all of my own advice.