Wow. How do I even try to preface a statement this bold? Ok. Ahem. Horror is as much a part of my life as my memories, my emotions, my soul. It has attached itself to every facet of who I am. From my art, to my storytelling, to hell, my Christmas purchases, it is ever present. It’s hard to even call myself a fan as I can barely remember a time that I was on the outside of this thing, seeking to cement a place in the community. It just seems like I have always been here in one capacity or another; and yes, there are people in the horror family that know far more than I do, are far more successful and probably fly their flag a little higher. But this, THIS has always been who I am, who I was, and I’m sure who I will be. It is a compulsion and I can’t, and don’t want to escape its draw.
I love the genre’s darkest moments. I love its comedy as well. I love every blood drenched moment of gore, carnage and likewise the revelry in a life saved, in the survival of the human spirit that sometimes only horror can show in its most extreme, it’s most severe. I’ve traded burgers for salad as a lifestyle choice but give me horror at its greasiest, most vile, dangerous and wicked and I will come away licking my fingers and signaling the waitress to come back for round 2. Give me the weird, the bizarre and the raw. Give me those things and then give me their antipodes and I will still come away smiling as horror has been my anchor. It has been friend in middle school, my family through college and now, it is my sponsor in my 40s. It is a staple, a mainstay, a rock, and it continues to allow me to enjoy the bizarre and macabre alongside the world’s best support group.
If you’re wondering when we’re finally going to talk about Netflix’s the Haunting of Hill house, I don’t blame you. But this preface? The one that follows that click-bait headline I also wrote? It’s fairly important to understand why I ended up bawling like a Jenny Craig alum on an all-night Ben & Jerry’s binger. I think it has something to do with how as horror fans, we use the unspeakable to fill in all those cracks left behind by some of our biggest, most terrible breaks. These are the breaks that never really heal, but put a limp in our stride and a crook in our back. The leave us broken and even their absence, when they stray a little further into the periphery, is still a wound. Curses and crutches, my breaks are just large enough that horror, strangely enough, fits nicely in the gaps left behind.
While watching HOHH a process started within me that I was unaware of. I started to think about all my little broken pieces still floating out there, much as the family on screen in front of me were trying to sort out their own. Seeing them struggle in the funeral home, seeing that pain made me realize that although my immediate family is still alive, I have not seen my mother, biological father and biological sister in the same room since I was 17 years old. I’m 43 now. The memories which shaped who I was and in part who I continue to be were created, cultivated, and chronicled by 4 people who will never ever share a rectangular space again. We are all still alive, we are normally healthy enough to travel and we still (although distance has fluctuated greatly over the years) are within a maximum 4 hours driving distance from each other…BUT it seems like we are irretrievably, irrevocably, broken.
That’s when I started to realize that I wasn’t watching a series about a haunted house, I was watching a series about haunted people. They were haunted by loss and they were haunted by the misunderstanding of the horrible things we do in the name of protecting the things and people we love. The more broken we become the bigger the spaces become between the pieces. We still try to fill those spaces but sometimes other things make their way in. I think HOHH was a story about how the biggest of those spaces can themselves become haunted, become homes to those compartmentalized ghosts and they eat at the edges until our spaces start touching and the broken pieces are just us floating in the darkness.
I thought about this and I cried. I cried the kinds of tears I used to cry when I missed my mommy. The kinds of tears when I thought I had disappointed her or the tears a child cries when they lose their favorite stuffed animal, the stuffed animal that was also their best friend and they understand the horrible crushing weight of “irretrievable” . It was probably my imagination, but I could have sworn these tears had a greater sting to them than the tears I cried when I moved back to the Midwest, penniless and terrified of the prospect of starting over in a place that had always been my greatest challenge to escape from.
I think the casual viewer will find a great ghost story if that’s what they are looking for in HOHH. I think the horror fan will find a dread laden atmosphere which will also keep them watching the series to completion. The broken…I don’t think there is refuge for the broken in Hill House. I think there is reflection and recognition for those that are especially haunted though. What it does have for anyone who opens its doors is a deep emotional core rarely present to this degree in modern horror.