Haunting of Hill House star explains how that amazing episode in the funeral parlour was made
A groundbreaking piece of TV on Haunting of Hill House
While the majority of TV shows can boast about having a plethora of excellent episodes, there are some episodes that are on a different level. Battle of the Bastards in Game of Thrones. Ozymandias in Breaking Bad. Pine Barrens in The Sopranos. The list goes on.
Granted, The Haunting of Hill House hasn't achieved the awards and devotion that these aforementioned shows have - hell, very few TV shows can and the horror drama has only been released - but Netflix's latest series can boast about one stunning piece of TV.
The episode that's set in Shirley Crain's funeral home, 'Two Storms'.
If you haven't seen the show, or if you haven't reached this point yet, consider this to be your spoiler alert warning.
After learning the backstories of every character, being slowly teased by the mystery of Hill House, and witnessing the tragic death of Nell, the Crain family have finally reunited and it was worth the wait.
Truth be told, there was a cathartic pleasure in seeing the shit hit the fan as every single bit of resentment, rage, and passive-aggression came to the fore.
Most people have some skeletons in their closet, the Crains have cemeteries.
In terms of the performances from the cast, every single actor delivered because there were times when it felt like you were watching a play unfold in front of your eyes - those long takes really did add to that feeling.
Aside from this, the fact that the camera was constantly in motion contributed to the immersive quality of the episode.
When we caught up with Michiel Huisman (Steven Crain), he said that the entire episode was one of the best things that he has ever worked on - high praise considering he spent a few years on Game of Thrones.
"It’s one of the most exciting things that I’ve ever worked on because the episode feels almost like one long take. In reality, it’s about 3/4 long takes that we stitched together. When there’s a wipe or something’s crossing the frame, you can do that," he said
If you're curious about how the episode was filmed, Huisman's insights are a perfect example of how The Haunting of Hill House managed to mix cutting-edge techniques, exceptional performances and old-school scares.
He added: "An 18-minute long take - especially with that ensemble cast is so challenging - especially if you still want to make it look like the rest of the show. It's not like we could turn on the lights and have the camera turn around. We actually rehearsed for weeks with the cast, crew and lighting department.
"They had lights set up on computers for every angle of the cameras. Very gently, lights go off and then they go on in the other corner to make it feel and look like the rest of the show. The overall idea is that the audience - although they likely won’t notice - is that they do feel that there’s a certain tension in the scenes because the camera never cuts away."
With regards to the final product, every single person watching the episode is strapped in for a ride that can be best described as an emotional rollercoaster that has so many layers, payoffs, and scares.
That's exactly what the creators were going for.
"Because that tension is exactly the tension that I was feeling while shooting - don’t mess it up, keep on it. You have to also know that an 18-minute take, you can’t just stop and go again. If we mess something up, it probably means that we have to wait an hour to rest everything back in its first position and give the care operator a break! I loved it," said Huisman.
Since debuting on Netflix, Mike Flanagan's adaptation of Shirley Jackson's beloved novel has been a big hit with viewers and a large reason why it has proven to be so successful is the cast, something that Huisman is quick to point out.
"Sometimes, it's so hard to do. I think we always feed off of each other but when it’s a conventional way of shooting things - where you have a wider shot, close-up and then the other side - it’s very challenging to get in a flow," he says. "But with takes like this, it’s much easier to achieve and it’s the best feeling ever. You just know that as an actor, you’re in a flow. Once you have that, you forget all the other stuff and you’re only thinking about that scene."
With four more episodes to go, fans will be glued to their screen as the mystery surrounding The Haunting of Hill House grows deeper.
Bring it on.