27 Scariest Scenes From Netflix's The Haunting Of Hill House, Ranked
Shirley Jackson's classic novel The Haunting of Hill House is one of the most famous ghost stories ever written, and the 1963 movie adaptation, The Haunting, is widely considered as one of the best horror films of all time. So when it was announced that Gerald's Game director Mike Flanagan would be directing a new adaptation for Netflix--and that it would be ten hours long--there was some doubt about whether a new version was really needed (especially when you consider the terrible 1999 movie).
However, Flanagan's version is a loose adaptation, taking the setting and character names and creating his own spin on this classic haunted house tale. The resulting show, which you can watch now in its entirety on Netflix, is a moving, complex story that spans decades and is as much a character study and family drama as it is a horror story. Exceptional performances, powerful writing, and stylish, inventive direction combine to create one of 2018's best shows, from any genre.
But while the dramatic content is as strong as anything out there right now, at heart, Flanagan is a horror filmmaker. His previous movies--which also include Hush, Oculus, and Ouija: Origin of Evil-- are very much part of the genre, and he has picked up many fans for his ability to conjure huge scares alongside intelligently-told, character-driven storylines. The Haunting of Hill House is no different.
As the Crane family come to terms with the effect that Hill House has had upon them over the years, Flanagan keeps the scares coming throughout. And while the pacing is sometimes slow, he makes sure that we never get too comfortable, using a variety of classic horror techniques to make us jump, shiver, and look away.
So here are our picks of the scariest moments from The Haunting of Hill House, with many spoilers ahead. Some of them are old-fashioned jump scares, some are moments filled with dread, and some are as sad as they are scary. Let's enter the Red Room...
27. The Figure At The Door (Episode 8)
Steven and his wife Leigh are having a serious talk with their doctor about their difficulty in conceiving a child. Unfortunately, Steven is somewhat distracted by the a figure watching them from behind the glass door to the doctor's office--a figure that seems to be one of his sisters.
26. Old Lady Reflection (Episode 4)
The house has an old-fashioned intercom system, which basically look like trumpets that connect via pipes to other rooms. Luke is talking to Nell through one when he suddenly sees the face of an old lady ghost reflected back at him.
25. Fan Meets Hand (Episode 7)
The Haunting of Hill House is much more about scares than gore, but there are a couple of gruesome moments. One comes in Episode 7, while Hugh and Steven are working in basement of the house, trying to fix the mold problem. Hugh asks his son to unplug the fan they are using, but seconds later it slices into his hand. Steven claims he unplugged it--and while we never actually see him do that, we know that the house is the true culprit.
24. Escaping The House (Episode 1)
Hugh carries young Steven through the house, as they make their escape to the car outside. At this point we don't know why they are running and why Steven is told to keep his eyes shut, but the fleeting sight of what seems to be Olivia, chasing after them, is chilling.
23. Hands On Nell (Episode 3)
Theo makes the mistake of laying her psychic hands upon Nell's corpse. What she discovers is not good, and she falls to floor letting out perhaps the most horrifying scream of the entire show. As she tells Shirley in Episode 9: "I felt nothing. Just nothing. And it spread everywhere in me until I couldn't feel anything anymore."
22. The Bug In The Cat (Episode 2)
One of the kittens that young Shirley finds in the toolshed dies, so her parents organise a feline funeral. As their daughter is saying a few words, the kitten suddenly starts breathing. Shirley takes the animal out of the box and holds it, only to see a giant bug crawl out of its mouth.
21. Future Twins (Episode 9)
As the house continues to consume Olivia's mind, she seeks refuge in the 'reading room'--which we later learn is her interpretation of the Red Room. But instead she finds herself in the morgue, many years in the future, where she sees adult Nell laid out on a gurney, and Luke on the floor, in a pool of vomit and blood with a needle in his arm.
20. Crawling Olivia (Episode 7)
Shortly after realising that Luke has taken Theo's car and Shirley's wallet, Theo and Hugh find that Shirley's model of the ForeverHouse has been smashed to bits. As Theo bends down to pick up the pieces, the mutilated corpse of Olivia emerges from around the corner, crawling towards her.
19. Wheelchair Boy (Episode 6)
The hunt for Nell around the house during the storm gives us a glimpse at several of the ghosts that haunt its rooms and hallways. Particularly unnerving is this young lad, a pasty-faced child in old clothes who wheels slowly and eerily past Olivia.
18. Button-eye Nell (Episode 6)
Poor Nell can't get much peace, even in death. While the family bicker around her in the funeral home, someone--or something--has placed buttons on her eyes. The culprit is never revealed, but everyone sees it so it's not a spectral hallucination. And remember, in Episode 4, Olivia gives young Nell a box of "cool old buttons."
17. Poppy Appears (Episode 8)
As Luke enters Hill House for the last time, he sees Olivia standing in front of him. She reaches out for him, and he says "mom." Suddenly the ghost of Poppy Hill, the 1920s flapper girl who was married to William Hill and went insane, appears behind him and grabs him with both hands.
16. Bent-Neck Watching (Episode 5)
The figure of the Bent-Neck Lady has haunted Nell since childhood, and at the end of Episode 5 we discover who she really is. But before we get to that, we have this terrifying sequence in which Nell, paralysed on her bed, first witnesses her husband Arthur drop dead in front of her, and then sees the Bent-Neck Lady watching her, silhouetted in front of the window in her room.
15. Behind The Wall (Episode 7)
Determined to find the rats that he thinks are scratching behind the wall in the basement, Hugh pulls away at the ancient brick. What he finds is not a rat, but the long-dead remains of William Hill, who bricked himself up in there back in 1948. And the scratching sounds? That was poor old William, trying to get out again...
14. Shirley's Face (Episode 10)
Shirley dreams that she is in the funeral home. Only it's not Nell's body in the casket--it's her own. Suddenly "dead" Shirley sits up and starts to claw at her face, pulling her eyes out and ripping at the skin to reveal blackened, rotting flesh underneath.
13. The Door Is Open (Episode 9)
The door to the Red Room is finally open. "You found the key!" exclaims a young Nell. "You want to know the secret?" asks her mom. "We were the key." So, Olivia leads Nell, Luke, and Abigail into the room for a "tea" party. There's something truly unsettling about this scene--you just know bad things are about to happen.
12. Where's Nelly? (Episode 6)
As the storm engulfs Hill House and the Crane family gather to get their flashlights working, Theo and Nell stand nearby, holding hands. Until the camera moves back, and we see that Theo is suddenly standing alone, and Nell has completely vanished. Her sudden return later in the episode is no less chilling: "I was right here. I was screaming and shouting and none of you could see me."
11. Bloody Olivia (Episode 3)
In this episode, we see how Theo's power of touch both affects her life as a child and adult. As she sits outside the house of a child abuser she has reported, she remembers when Olivia touched her hand as a girl, bringing a terrifying sudden vision of her mom's bloody corpse.
10. Runny Egg Eyes (Episode 10)
Luke dreams about seeing Joey again, after she ran off with the money he got from Steve. She torments him about getting high before referring back to the disturbing rehab monologue the former soldier delivered at the start of Episode 4. "You can see the little girl," Joey tells Luke. "The little girl with the runny egg eyes." And right on cue, her eyeballs melt down her face.
9. Cat's Eyes (Episode 2)
Sadly for poor Shirley, the rest of Episode 2's toolshed cat litter are not at all well. With all the other kittens dead, the only one that is just about breathing suddenly opens his eyes to reveal two horribly bulbous, maggot-white orbs.
8. Grave Encounter (Episode 7)
Luke kneels by Nell's grave at her funeral, telling her that he is sorry. He looks and sees his sister, as the Bent-Neck Lady, standing over him. She snarls "Don't!" and suddenly Luke is grabbed by a hand from the grave. A ghostly Nell pulls at him, imploring "Stay."
7. Count To Seven (Episode 4)
Luke waits for Steven on the street, feeling the overpowering physical effects of Nell's death on him. He starts to see the ghost of William Hill, the tall, bowler-hatted former owner of the house, who bricked himself up inside its walls. As Luke starts to do the count to seven that he and Nell used as kids to keep them safe, Hill slides closer and closer to him.
6. Leigh's Baby (Episode 10)
As Steven sits with his pregnant wife Leigh, she starts to talk to him in stronger and stronger words, accusing him of being a "plastic parasite." Then she lifts up her dress to reveal her pregnant belly, which begins to bulge and crack. "If she eats me from the inside and I burst like a blister, will you lose your mind?" Leigh asks before her face darkens and distorts.
5. Nell's Dead (Episode 1)
Episode 1 ends with older Hugh telling Steven the news that Nell is dead. So, why is she standing in Steven's kitchen? And why is she making that horrifically scary face?
4. Basement Ghoul (Episode 3)
In one of the show's scariest sequences, young Luke finds himself trapped in the house's basement after he convinces Shirley to activate the dumb waiter with him inside. While he shouts for his sister to rescue him, and with his flashlight flickering on and off, Luke sees something emerge from behind a barrel at the back of the room. It's the skeletal remains of William Hill, trapped in the basement for decades, coming toward him.
3. "Drink Your Tea." (Episode 9)
Abigail drinks Olivia's tea, which she has laced with rat poison. She begins to choke, while Nell and Luke look on, horrified. "She's having a nightmare," Olivia tells her kids. "Drink your tea." It's a terrifying, sickening sequence, made even worse in retrospect, when we discover that Abigail is not Luke's imaginary friend, but the Dudleys' very real daughter.
2. Bent-Neck Falling (Episode 5)
This incredible scene happens right at the end of Episode 5, where it is revealed that the Bent-Neck Lady is in fact Nell herself. We see her hang herself in the house, and then her body drops on the noose into every scene we had previously seen the Bent-Neck Lady in. Nell haunts Theo, Luke, herself as an adult, and then finally herself as a child. It's truly spine-chilling.
1. Backseat Driver (Episode 8)
An intense, angry conversation between Shirley and Theo as they drive home from the funeral is interrupted by the sudden appearance of ghostly Nell, who lurches forward from the back of the car, screaming horrifically, perhaps in an attempt to stop them heading to Hill House. The car skids off the road and Theo jumps out, running from this terrifying vision. She might have scared them witless, but Nell's appearance succeeds in allowing her sisters to forgive each other.