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Nightmare Fuel / The Haunting of Hill House

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Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House has jump scares aplenty, which is to be expected when living in a home in possession of ghosts and the supernatural. But not all the terror comes from zombies shrieking in the viewer's face. Rather, much of the best-done nightmare fuel comes from creating a mood from near constant suspense and isolation amongst the family members - as well as ghosts sliding in and out of frames, so easily that the audience at times might be questioning whether they really saw a ghost in the background or just some shadows or one of the ubiquitous creepy statues that populate Hill House. Mind screwery at its finest.

As a Moments subpage, all spoilers will remain unmarked. You have been warned.


In General:

  • The unsettling moans some of the ghosts make. It sounds truly unearthly, as if they're still moaning in pain and trying to communicate but unable to make any words. That, combined with their rigid movements, shriveled pale skin, and glowing Prophet Eyes, and it quickly leaves the audience with conviction that these ghosts are different and dangerous.
  • The amount of hidden ghosts throughout the show, as if implying there are far more spirits walking its grounds.
  • The creepy atmosphere in general. An old Victorian or something similar is par for the course for haunted house stories; those statues add an extra creep factor to it, particularly with their freaky or disturbing expressions, not helped by the hidden ghosts in various scenes that could be mistaken for one of those statues. It's almost like this series goes out of its way to mindscrew its viewers...

Episode One:

  • Steve's father Hugh - who we've already seen trying to convince young Nell that she's only having a little "spill" (bad dream) instead of seeing ghosts - bursts into Steve's room in the middle of the night, whispering to him that they "gotta get out of here right now". They wait in tense silence as the creepy lion door handle sloooowly turns, as someone outside in the hallway tries to get in. We're treated to tense shots of Hugh and Steve and— DEAR GOD, is that a ghost behind Steve, standing in the shadows of his room?! Or just a creepy trick of the light?!
    • And then TWO MORE ghosts standing in the foyer as Steve and Hugh flee Hill House? At this point, either the viewer thinks they're seeing things, or else they realize that Hill House really is haunted as all hell!
  • The scene where Nell dances alone through the darkened House, while the creepy statues watch on.
    • ... And shortly thereafter, Theo, Shirley, Luke, and even Steve wake at the exact same moment, gasping and clutching their necks.
    • And much before that...?
    Shirley: *gasping, holding her neck* NELLIE'S IN THE RED ROOM!
  • Earlier on, Hugh gets a gentle caress from his wife while she holds him from behind in bed. However, as the scene holds for too long, he (and the viewer) realize something is wrong. He turns... and we see only the bottom half of Olivia's face as she gives him a hell of a Slasher Smile, and then screams at the top of her lungs. Cue Catapult Nightmare.
  • Fridge Horror:
    Olivia: "Have either of you seen Luke?"
    Steven: "I assume you tried the treehouse?"
    Olivia: "Very funny, mister."
    • The aforementioned treehouse has a lovely red trapdoor.
  • The reveal to Steve that his sister Nell is dead. Naturally, he finds out when the latter rather eerily appears to him as a ghost, unbeknownst to him, all while remaining totally silent. Then he receives a call that there's been a death in the family, and when he turns around, she's right there. As he watches, her skin turns even paler, while her eyes change to dead white, and pained moans and then muted screams come from her cold-blackened lips...

Episode Two:

  • Shirley's words she says just before waking up: "Nellie's in the Red Room."
  • Though not haunted or supernatural, the scene of Shirley preparing and embalming the grandmother can be this for some, especially for those who have had traumatic experiences with loved ones dying and attending their visitations or funerals.
  • Olivia and Shirley are talking together about Olivia's vision of their forever home. Not only is the conversation itself Fridge Horror, but there's a ghost all in black standing in the other room just beyond Olivia's head. In one shot, it appears to have moved closer, as if listening to Olivia (you can just barely see its folded white hands). In later shots, it appears to be gone.
    • And there's another one standing outside, beyond Shirley's head. The only thing to indicate that it's a ghost and not stone decor, is that in later shots, it has also vanished.
  • Shirley finds a box full of small kittens and her parents allow her to take them in and feed them. One night, one dies and she's pretty heart broken about it and Olivia and Hugh decide to bury it with her giving a eulogy for it. Then the kitten begins to breathe weakly... except Olivia and Hugh don't see it. Cue Shirley seeing a bug crawl out of its mouth and then on her arm.
    • How about the part where she and Nell find the kittens all dead? Shirl freaks out and almost breaks down until she sees one breathing and picks it up. It then opens its eyes only to have no fucking pupils.
      • The worst part? It's implied to not be a supernatural event as Hugh and Olivia argue about how the kittens were diseased and Hugh had to put the last one out of its misery. Even worse, it's entirely possible that they weren't diseased at all, just much too young to be away from their mother — who even Hugh acknowledged may have been somewhere nearby.
  • After Shirley finds the kittens, there’s mention of dogs and how the children have been hearing about them every night since they’ve moved into Hill House. Mister Dudley’s response to the query about them going after the kittens? “There’s no dogs on the property.” Even when Hugh insists that the kids have been hearing them, Mister Dudley continues to assert this notion.

Episode Three:

  • Young Theo accidentally sends Luke down the the dumbwaiter in the kitchen. He finds himself in a basement room. Even though the viewer knows something is coming, what with the wide angle shots and the flickering flashlight, but it's still a horrifying surprise when a zombie-fied... something lurches out from behind some crates, and fast crawls right towards Luke, and by extension, the camera itself, eyes glowing like a feral animal in the dark.
  • Adult Theo is asleep in her bed when her blankets slowly pull themselves off of her. She wakes up and sees Mr. Smiley at the foot of her bed, the apparition one of her child patients had been seeing at night. It is horrible.
    • Then later in the episode we learn that Mr. Smiley isn't supernatural at all, but the patient's way of coping with her foster father's sexual abuse. Not only is that nightmare fuel on its own, it makes Theo's vision of Mr. Smiley pulling off her blankets at night all the more horrific...
  • Theo touches a couch with her bare hand and immediately relives someone else's rape as if it's happening to her. If that's not nightmarish, then...
  • Theo's ability in general is pretty uncomfortable: The sole fact that anything she touches, she feels something else. Sure, it does help in the long run considering she's able to use her ability to save a child from the abuse of her foster father and much earlier, able to figure out a shy boy she spoke to suffers from anxiety and PTSD, but considering her earlier encounters had her see her mother as a dead corpse as a child and the aforementioned horrible vision of the rape of the child by her own foster father, it's no wonder she uses gloves.

Episode Four:

  • Luke's encounter with the apparition of William Hill when he was a child, and how the echo of that has followed him all his life and caused many of his adult behaviors. Especially creepy when you see, from Luke's perspective, the apparition following him no matter where he goes, just a few steps behind, and when he stops to try to gather the courage to face it it draws inexorably closer until it's right behind him, close enough to touch.
    • It can also imply William Hill's ghost could represent his urge to relapse back into his drug addiction.

Episode Five:

  • The episode is teeming with Nightmare Fuel surrounding what happened to Nell.
    • Nell's sleep paralysis episodes, particularly the tragic one where Arthur died.
    • Nell's delusions within the house leading her to a rope around her neck and a fall? Terrifying. The Reveal that she was the Bent-Neck Lady haunting her younger self? Holy crap.
      • To elaborate further on how the House tricked her into hanging herself... She saw vision after vision of her family giving her the love and support that she always wanted, as the House lured her further into its spell. It finally gets to a point where Nell is standing at the top of the library's spiral staircase, studying the ropes dangling there, then seeing a noose in her hands, which she regards with vague puzzlement. Then her mother calls her name, and she turns, and whatever is in her hands is invisible, because the House is hypnotizing her into forgetting her surroundings. Her mother's apparition approaches her with a beautiful necklace, that Nell puts around her neck and admires for a moment. The moment holds... Then, like a cold bucket of water, the House switches her back into her real space: she's standing on the outside of the railing, barely keeping her footing - and the noose is around her neck. That beautiful necklace was really a noose. She panics, calling for her mama, and her mother's apparition approaches with tears in her unblinking eyes... And then betrays her with a single gentle kiss that sends her over the edge.
    • The foreshadowing in this episode becomes more chilling upon watching it a second time. Nell finds a tea set in her toy room which is really the Red Room - the Red Room knows her desires and is laying out the bait, so she will come closer without realizing that the House is feeding on her. After learning a bit more about that particular tea set, she begs her mother for a tea party, which her mother refuses. Later, just before her death, the apparitions - or it is memories? - of her mother, brother Luke, and little Abigail lead her up the library stairs, her mother saying, "Want to have a tea party?" As we find out in Episode 9, these were the exact circumstances that led up to that monstrous night when Olivia and one other person died...

Episode Six:

  • Nell's ghost is there the whole time. No one can see her. The last shot of the episode is Ghost!Nell standing next to her coffin, looking absolutely anguished that she can't interact with her family.
    • In one particular shot, around the 14 minute mark, the whole family stands in the visitation room staring at Nell's casket. The Bent-Neck Lady/Ghost!Nell is standing there too, behind her family.
  • Hugh is walking through Shirley's darkened funeral parlor searching for a bathroom, while a storm rumbles outside. He comes to an area that looks suspiciously like Hill House... and then a chandelier crashes down! A very worthy Jump Scare.
    • Of course, it is Hill House, and the beginning of a flashback. We almost immediately see the face of a ghost hidden behind older Hugh just before it begins (or perhaps not, since according to Word of God there are no Easter Egg ghosts hidden in this episode - but they could be lying).
    • There may not be ghosts, but some of the statues move.
  • When Nell briefly disappears during the storm, and the kids were left in the foyer to huddle together, their screams drew the parents back. Why? They claimed that some large animal with glowing red eyes ran right past the kids, within literal, physical reach of them. Are there ghost dogs now? Were they former residents, much like the people, that now haunt the property’s grounds? We’re never given anything concrete about this, nor are we given any visual evidence of what the kids have been seeing or hearing. Doubles as a Nothing Is Scarier kind of psychological horror, because we don’t know and neither does the Crain family.

Episode Seven:

  • Hugh accidentally slicing his hand on a fan.
  • The corpse Hugh finds bricked up in the wall. As if that weren't bad enough, the cop that comes to the house says that judging by the scratch marks, the man was still alive and trying desperately to claw his way out for god knows how long.

Episode Eight:

  • Nell screaming between Shirley and Theo during their car ride to the House due to how out of nowhere it is.
    • Can kinda be considered a bit of Nightmare Retardant as it's probably Nell yelling at the two to stop fighting.
    • The real magic of the scene is that you're truly invested in Shirley and Theo's argument and wanting to hear Theo's explanation, so that even knowing how much the show loves a Jump Scare you're completely off guard for it.
  • It's later on revealed that Luke took Theo's car and took Shirley's credit card not to buy drugs to relapse nor to commit suicide, but to buy canisters of gasoline to burn Hill House down for the trauma it's caused. But when he douses the floor in gasoline and throws a lighter to burn it down as if he's going to take the House with him, the flames turn blue and disappear. That's right, The House refused to let Luke burn it down.

Episode Nine:

  • Olivia's Sanity Slippage of seeing Poppy and being convinced by her that her children will be safe by keeping them forever. Making her into the creepy example of My Beloved Smother.
  • The Red Room opening itself. Olivia serves tea for Luke, Nell, and Abigail, Luke's "imagery friend". It's then revealed the tea has rat poison and Abigail proceeds to die in front of them. GEEZ.
    • Abigail's death is pretty disturbing too, seeing her vomit and slowly choke to death.
    • The Red Room itself is pretty chilling. An empty room with one small window. Nothing too bad until you see the entire room is drenched in black mold.
    • The creepiest part is the fact you think Abigail is just a ghost like everything else in Hill House, right? Next episode reveals that's not the case. She's actually the Dudleys's homeschooled daughter. Who Olivia just killed.
    • Add to that, beforehand and throughout the show, Olivia and Hugh show confusion on how the hell the Red Room is even there when there's no support function for it to even be there.
  • Olivia's suicide, since she falls head first.

Episode Ten:

  • Each of the illusory worlds that the Red Room generates for Steve, Theo, and Luke.
    • Steve has apparently reconciled with his now-pregnant wife Leigh, only to see her start to verbally tear apart his career and everything that he is. Then she reveals her pregnant belly beginning to bloat with black mold, as it slowly consumes, discolors and engulfs her entire body...
    • Theo is in bed with her lover Trish, where she encourages Theo to lie back and let her take her pleasure. Of course, while Trish is doing so (and putting her hands on Theo, who normally Hates Being Touched) she's also telling an ever-more disturbing story (which is clearly about William Hill, who bricked himself up in the basement and starved to death). When Theo tells her to stop, more and more spectral hands begin to appear and grasp at Theo, holding her down and groping at her, until she's nearly buried beneath their greedy fingers.
    • Luke finds his addict friend Joey just after he makes the phone call for help, and she takes him to a very nice hotel room. Then she offers him a needle, telling him that they'll never really be clean, not really. Then she points out that the needle is already in his arm, something which he was deliberately refusing to do. And then Joey tells him that another addict (who we briefly met some episodes ago) was right about how in the patterns on the wall you could see the girl who was burned in a warzone, the girl with the runny-egg eyes, and just as she says that, her eyes begin to liquefy away and run down her cheeks just like what she's describing...
  • The reveal that the Red Room has been opened: The House just tricked each family member (sans Hugh, unless the parlor Steve mentioned to Mrs. Dudley in Episode 1 was another iteration of the Red Room) into entering it and being a different view for the family (A tea-reading room for Olivia, a toy room for Nell, a game room for Steve, a dance room for Theo, etc). That within itself makes it terrifying considering any room in the house could have been the Red Room.
    Nell: This room is like the heart of the house. No, not a heart, a stomach. It was your dance studio, Theo. It was my toy room. It was a reading room, for Mom. The game room, for Steve. A family room, for Shirley. A treehouse... But it was always the Red Room. It put on different faces, so that we'd be still and quiet, while it digested.
  • Steven watches the door to the Red Room close on an embracing Liv, Hugh, and Nell. While it's ostensibly a happy ending, look at Liv. While Nell has her eyes closed as she embraces her father, Olivia is staring right at Steven with fixed eyes. This is the last we see of her, and it's a chilling reminder that she still wants all of her children dead with her.

Example of: