Case Study: Tugging the Heartstrings in THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE

drama, haunted, Haunting of Hill House, house, screenwriting tips -

Case Study: Tugging the Heartstrings in THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE

SPOILER ALERT – do not read this article if you haven’t yet seen the entire first season of THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE.

SECOND SPOILER ALERT – seriously, don’t do it. Are you still reading this? Have you seen the whole first season? Okay, let’s get into it.

Haunted house movies are a dime a dozen. If you look through a list of haunted house films (there aren’t that many haunted house TV shows, by contrast) they follow a similar template (people move into a haunted house, spooky things happen to them, repeat).

Yet, somehow THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE takes this template and endows it with powerful human drama. The most incredible trick it pulls in this regard is explaining the motivation behind Olivia Crain trying to kill her children.

The answer is heartbreakingly simple. She doesn’t want them to leave the house, because if they don’t, they’ll be safe from the terror that is life. Olivia has become convinced that her children are better off dying and being trapped in the house as ghosts than taking the chance of suffering heartbreak and pain in the outside world.

It’s one of those staggeringly great ideas that seems so obvious you’d think someone else must have done it. And it does what seems like the impossible: it humanizes Olivia Crain’s desire to kill her own children.

It also challenges us as the audience on a basic human level. Life is hard, sometimes. We’ve seen how hard it has been for all the Crain children. They have major problems. Luke is a drug addict. Theo pushes people away because of her psychic sensitivity. Nell’s husband dies of a brain aneurysm.

But even though life is hard, isn’t it still worth living? The show’s answer is yes. How did you connect with THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE’s screenwriting? Did you cry at the end? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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