The Netflix horror adaptation of Shirley Jackson's 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House is basically This Is Us for the supernaturally cursed. Sure, there are a few jump scares and barely hidden Hill House ghosts, but at the show's heart, the most devastating scenes center on a father's inability to protect his children from the truth about their traumatic childhood.
Series director Mike Flanagan left no detail untouched - from the meticulously crafted set to the tiny Easter eggs threaded throughout. His depiction of family trauma is so unbelievably disturbing, it's no wonder the cast deeply felt its effects. The behind-the-scenes details of Hill House's set may surprise you, whether or not you lost it during the final episode.
The Set Designer Hid Faces Everywhere So It Appears The House Is Always WatchingPhoto: Steve Dietl/Netflix
Forget the ghosts hidden in Hill House's background - perhaps most of the Crains couldn't escape or outsmart the mansion's dark forces because the house was watching their every move. Set designer Patricio Farrell hid faces all over the home by working them into everything from desk drawer handles to doorknobs, meaning there's a face lurking in every room.
"Patricio Farrell designed the set, and it was a thing of beauty," director Mike Flanagan told Vulture. "There was so much care put into the tiniest of details, most of which you'll never notice on-screen. I used to be fascinated just looking for all of the hidden faces he put into the design. Every inch of that house is staring at you, quite literally. Even the handles on the desk drawers had faces."
The Actors Had To Perform 18-Page Scenes All In One TakePhoto: Steve Dietl/Netflix
Modern video editing usually means if an actor messes up, the director can yell, "Cut!" and everyone gets a mulligan. Making The Haunting of Hill House was a whole different beast - one little flub could lead to redoing 18 entire pages' worth of shooting.
Season 1, episode 6 of the horror series features a ton of one-shot takes. The longest is 17 minutes, which means everyone on set had to perform perfectly for 17 full minutes. Talk about nerve-wracking!
"Everyone has to be absolutely in sync with each other, and if one thing is off, the take is gone,” said Carla Gugino, who plays troubled matriarch Olivia Crain.
"We were doing 18-page scenes without any cuts," said Mike Flanagan, Hill House's screenwriter and director. "[I] wanted an episode that would appear to take place essentially in real time, in one single shot. It turned into a challenge unlike anything else I've ever had in a production... We knew that we had certain shots that were going to require us to walk through the house in its entirety."
Creators Hid Ghosts In Every Scene And Purposely Preyed On Viewers' Fear Of The DarkPhoto: Steve Dietl/Netflix
The Haunting of Hill House is unsettling as it preys on the very human fear of what you can't see - whether it's tangible, like in the darkness, or a more psychological take, like how the Bent-Neck Lady and Nell were one all along.
Cinematographer Michael Fimognari opted for a dark color palette to obscure what's going on in the background, leaving viewers uncertain of vague, shadowy figures. In addition, director Mike Flanagan hid ghosts throughout the darkness in places viewers might not notice. Sometimes the ghosts are conspicuous, like the clock repairman or Nell at her funeral, but not always.
"We actually hid dozens of ghosts throughout the series, in plain sight, in the deep background of shots," Flanagan told Vulture. "We don't call any attention to them, but they're there. If you look in a door frame, or under the piano, or behind a curtain in a lot of otherwise ordinary scenes, you'll see someone there."
The Red Room Was Constantly Changing In Real LifePhoto: Steve Dietl/Netflix
Hill House has one major caveat: Viewers must accept the idea that a family decided to buy an expensive mansion without having done due diligence. Who would buy a home without entering its mysterious locked room or inspecting it for black mold? Even if you can suspend your disbelief, the Red Room is disconcerting - which is similar to how it was in real life.
In an interview with Vulture, director Mike Flanagan admitted the Red Room was truly ever-changing: "[The house is] a fully functional, two-story set. You could walk through the whole house, as it was meant to exist on-screen. For the Red Room, we built an interior, and we would repaint and redecorate it several times throughout production."