'The Haunting of Hill House' was supposed to have a much darker ending
The Haunting of Hill House is Netflix's newest triumph of original programming, and the horror series is the perfect thing to watch over the Halloween season. Based on the classic 1959 horror novel by author Shirley Jackson, then ten-part first season has already picked up rave reviews as a contemporary gothic exploration of the themes of madness, regret, grief and memory.
Netflix's official synopsis for the series states: "26 years ago, residential contractor Hugh Crain and his architect wife Olivia decided to try to remodel and flip a century-old mansion known as Hill House. They moved in early in the summer along with their five children (Steve, Shirley, Theodora, Luke, and Nell), and that's when things immediately started to get bizarre. Because it turns out that the House has a history of deaths and disappearances..."
However, series creator Mike Flanagan has recently opened up about how the show was originally supposed to have a much darker ending, which was changed at the very last minute. (Spoilers ahead). The finale has the Crain family venturing back into Hill House, where they confront the ghost of their mother and Nell. They end up stuck in the Red Room, where they are tortured by nightmarish visions and hallucinations. They manage to escape, but Mike Flanagan has stated that in his first draft he wanted to imply that they were still stuck there.
Flanagan 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."
He added: "That surprised me. I’d come to love the characters so much that I wanted them to be happy. I came into work and said, ‘I don’t want to put the window up. I think it’s mean and unfair.’ Once that gear had kicked in, I wanted to lean as far in that direction as possible. We’ve been on this journey for 10 hours; a few minutes of hope was important to me."
Flanagan also stated that he thought the ending they went with was the most thematically appropriate. "Steven inherits Hugh’s responsibility, and the house is still standing," he stated. "It’s still haunted, and everyone’s still trapped. But they’re together. It is a little bittersweet. When we think about families, that’s what we’re left with. We’re stuck with our family no matter what, and even if it’s not going to be OK, even if we’re never going to get back what we lost, at least we can find a way to live with that. That little bit of comfort meant a lot to me. We could have gone pretty cynical, and almost did. But I find myself glad that we didn’t.”
So am - thank god the Crains managed to find some peace in the end. Lord knows they deserved to.