“No human eye can isolate or at an odd angle, the unhappy coincidence of line and place which suggests evil in the face of a house, and yet somehow a manic juxtaposition, a badly turned angle, some chance meeting of roof and sky, turned Hill House into a place of despair, more frightening because the face of Hill House seemed awake, with a watchfulness from the blank windows and a touch of glee in the eyebrow of a cornice. Almost any house, caught unexpectedly or at an odd angle, can turn a deeply humourous look on a watching person; even a mischievous little chimney, or a dormer like a dimple, can catch up a beholder with a sense of fellowship; but a house arrogant and hating, never off guard, can only be evil. “
The story of a house. A house with a troubled history. A house that is reputed to be haunted. A house owned, but unoccupied.
And so the stage is set.
The visitors expect to stay for a stay a month, and they arrive expecting a quiet escape from the world. But strange things begin to happen. Hill House, it seems, is taking hold of them.
The new occupants of Hill House are unremarkable, dull even, but that didn’t matter. Hill House mattered, and I was impatient when the occupants distracted me from the house.
What happened at Hill House was frightening, and deeply unsettling. All the more so because it was set against many mundane, everyday actions and conversations.
But the horrors of Hill House were all the more frightening because they were unseen.
And because they were refracted through the mind of a woman who was maybe a little unbalanced. That left room to ask questions. To ask whether the haunting came from the house or from a disturbed mind. A mind that was breaking down.
Shirley Jackson executed her story beautifully. It rose and fell. It had so many details and nuances. I found it quite impossible to let go.
She left space to react, which made it all the more disturbing.
The final act brought a masterstoke. At first it felt wrong, but then I realised it was entirely right. I wish I could explain, but I can’t without giving too much away.
And then there was an ending, but not a resolution. Unanswered questions remained, as sometimes in life they must.
And now Hill House. is haunting me.
I may go back, as I’m sure there are things I missed, things I might feel different about on a second visit …