Whenever I sit down to watch something on the telly, I'm hoping to have some kind of reaction to what's unfolding on my screen. It might be having a laugh or having a little cry. It might be feeling warm fuzzies or feeling outraged.

However, of all the feelings I want provoked while watching a TV show, the urge to vomit is not one of them. But apparently, that's the risk we're all taking when it comes to Netflix's new horror series, The Haunting of Hill House.

As viewers first sat down to enjoy the 10-part series when it dropped two weeks ago, they were quick to share their experiences on social media. And they did not hold back.

"The Haunting of Hill House is one of the most terrifying, nail-biting, hide behind the couch, don't even breathe, I'm going to pass out from fear things I have ever watched," said one.


"It makes me want to vomit, cry, and turn on all of the lights in the universe," said another.

They weren't the only ones left feeling ill, with another Twitter user adding the show made them "terror vomit in joyful confusion".

I knew I had to see it. Immediately.

So, with my popcorn bowl doubling as a handy vomit receptacle, I began to work my way through the show to see what all the fuss was about. And I promptly decided all of those terrified statements were utter codswallop.

I didn't throw up. I didn't pass out with fear. I didn't have to sleep with the lights on. The Haunting of Hill House is not even close to being the scariest thing I've ever seen. But it is one of the better shows I've seen all year.

Created by Mike Flanagan, the series is an adaptation of Shirley Jackson's acclaimed novel of the same name. Focusing on five siblings, it deals with their ongoing fallout from once living in "the most famous haunted house in America".

The show jumps back and forth between two time periods, from when the young family moved into Hill House with the purpose of renovating and flipping it on, to the present day, where the grown-up siblings are still struggling with metaphorical - and sometimes literal - ghosts from their past.

The first episode begins with the family's final hours at Hill House, where it becomes clear something terrible has happened, leaving the children without their mother. In the present day, we see the brothers and sisters still grappling with a lifetime of resentment from that fateful night.

Steven is a novelist who's turned his family's experience into a bestseller; Shirley is a funeral director (an occupation which makes for some truly grim scenes); Theo is a tough-as-nails therapist; while twins Luke and Nell are still very, very fragile after being terrorised by particularly haunting images as children.

When a new tragedy brings the family members together once again, they're forced to confront each other – and the old house itself – to figure out what happened in their past and find a way forward.

Netflix's new horror series, The Haunting of Hill House, is one of the better shows of the year. Photo / Netflix
Netflix's new horror series, The Haunting of Hill House, is one of the better shows of the year. Photo / Netflix

Although the series starts slowly, it eventually develops into a riveting story, revealing a few horrifying secrets along the way and finishing on a surprisingly emotional note.

I had originally sat down to watch the show as a bit of a joke to see how much I could scare myself but came away from it marvelling at the elegant, effective story-telling and the deft hand Flanagan and his cast have shown in depicting grief and coping with trauma.

While the series has a few requisite jump-in-your-seat moments (and a character known as, gulp, The Bent-Neck Lady), much of the show's dread comes from that which we cannot see, thumps on the walls and mysteriously locked doors - never has a doorknob being slowly turned been so anxiety-inducing.

It might be quite restrained in these horror elements, but those frights wind up adding to the story, rather than distracting from it.

My only fear now is that Netflix decides to capitalise on this wee gem and squeeze a second series out of it. Because I really don't see how they could do much better.
The Haunting of Hill House is available to stream now on Netflix.