Don’t believe that word… I’m talking about the word itself. “Supernatural.” There’s the natural phenomena that we understand and there’s natural phenomena that we don’t. Primitive humans used to die of fright during an eclipse. They had no idea what it was. The eye of an angry god. An evil spirit. Nothing supernatural about it, though. Once we understood what it was, well, it was just natural. I prefer “preternatural.” Natural phenomena that we don’t quite understand yet.
On nights when I don’t feel like succumbing to the third shift, I’ve found myself succumbing to the temptations of Netflix binging. From The Good Place to Atypical, there’s always something to watch. And last night, likely against my better judgement, I got started with The Haunting of Hill House.
You know, it’s probably not the brightest idea to start watching a horror TV series at night. Alone. In the dark. With headphones on. But that’s exactly what I did. To be fair, based solely on the first episode, The Haunting of Hill House is more creepy and unsettling than it is straight up frightening. Jump scares are few and far between, though I imagine that might change as I make my way through the rest of the season.
Eldest brother Steven Crain, for example, has grown up to become an accomplished author and paranormal investigator. He’s played by Michiel Huisman. You might recognize him as Daario Naharis from HBO’s Game of Thrones or from 2015’s The Age of Adaline with Blake Lively.
In the first episode of The Haunting of Hill House, we plainly see that Steven is skeptical about the whole thing. He declares that he has “never seen a ghost,” because he believes the experience of ghosts is a form of wish fulfillment. It’s not supernatural; it’s just that we don’t understand it yet.
A good friend of mine once told me that knowledge falls into one of three categories. There’s what you know you know, there’s what you know you don’t know, and then there’s what you don’t know you don’t know. And somewhere between those three, we uncover the tantalizing appeal of the horror genre. We like being scared in a safe environment.
As the legendary Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.” And that’s really been my experience with this show so far. I’m not terrified as much as I am slighly uncomfortable the whole time. In this way, if we were to follow the school of Stephen King, The Haunting of Hill House is much more about the terror than it is about the gross-out or the horror.
Because that’s just natural… right?