Creator of 'The Haunting of Hill House' reveals the truth behind mysterious ending to the show
The Haunted Of Hill House riveted viewers with its tale of a dysfunctional family haunted by the ghosts of their past. But for all the visions of bent-neck ladies and floating figures with canes, the biggest surprise might have been the happy ending. (Spoilers and specters ahead.)
In the finale, the surviving Crain family travels back to Hill House, where they're lured into the horrible Red Room and tortured by nightmarish hallucinations. The father, Hugh, convinces the ghost of his wife, Olivia, to let their children escape. In exchange, he sacrifices himself. (Thanks, dad!) In the final shot, we see the remaining siblings have reconciled their bonds. Steve, Shirley, Theo and their partners celebrate Luke's sobriety with a cake.
Series creator Mike Flanagan recently revealed 'Hill House' was supposed to have a much darker ending. He stated, "We toyed with the idea for a little while that over that [ending] monologue, over the image of the family together, we would put the Red Room window in the background. For a while, that was the plan. Maybe they never really got out of that room. The night before it came time to shoot it, I sat up in bed, and I felt guilty about it. I felt like it was cruel... I’d come to love the characters so much that I wanted them to be happy."
However, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, the actor who plays Luke, shared a key detail that could change everything about the finale: Luke's red cake. As you know, the Crains all spent time in the Red Room, but didn't know it, because the room transformed into something different for each of them: a tree house for Luke, a dance studio for Theo, a toy room for Nell, a reading room for Olivia, and a family room for Shirley.
"There’s this thing that happens when we’re all in the Red Room," Jackson-Cohen explains. "Whenever each child, each sibling, is in the Red Room, something in the fantasy is red. And it’ll be a very, very small thing." And in the finale, Luke's cake is red, which could mean the Crains never escaped the Red Room after all.
However, Mike Flanagan shut down that theory during an an interview with TV Line. Sorry, dark ending fans. The show's creator says the ending "can be read at face value:"
"I’ve said a lot about the ending, and I’m reluctant to say more. I like that people are able to put their own spin on things, so I’m not eager to take that away from them ... In this case, though, the ending can be read at face value ... If they’re still in the Red Room, it robs Hugh’s sacrifice [and the show itself] of any meaning. For me, it ends exactly as it appears to."
"Hugh is dead, Nell is dead, Olivia is still dead. I always looked at it as just having a hint of peace, just a glimpse into the fact that life goes on, and there’s some acceptance for the surviving characters. Acceptance, peace and a little forgiveness doesn’t lessen the loss they experience in that episode; it only shows that life has a way of going on, and that these characters are finally accepting of that."
Well, there you have it. The show is set to return for a second season, with actors coming back to play different characters. The surviving Crains live happily ever after. For now.