The Haunting Of Hill House (2018) A (Mildly) Belated Review

Released through Netflix a couple of years ago, The Haunting of Hill House is a 10 part mini-series based on the famous haunted house novel by Shirley Jackson which was made twice before into movies, the most famous of which was the Robert Wise directed version, called The Haunting, and released in 1963.

Here’s the thing, though: While the mini-series bears the same name as the novel and has a few of the artifacts which are present in it, including the look of Hill House (which is almost the very same) and several characters who have the same names, this mini-series is very much a reimagining of the story, to the point where it is hard to call it more than “inspired by” the original novel and -to a degree visually- the original movie.

Which is not to say this is a bad thing!

The fact of the matter is that The Haunting of Hill House is an incredibly ambitious and at times spectacular mini-series which sadly, IMHO, falls in its concluding moments.

But we’ll get to that in a moment.

The series expertly moves in time, from the past when a young Hugh Crain (in the past played by Henry Thomas and in the present by Timothy Hutton) and his wife Olivia (Carla Gugino) and their large family consisting of Steven, Shirley, Theodora, and young twins Luke and Nell arrive at Hill House to “flip” it. Through flashbacks and scenes set in the present, we learn that a great tragedy occurred at Hill House and, soon enough, realize Olivia died there and that all kinds of eerie, ghostly events occurred as well.

The events of the night of Olivia’s death are slowly hinted, and their repercussions in the present are shown in a shattered family, now consisting of grown ups, with all kinds of hang ups. The very youngest of the Crains, Nell (who we find was born only 90 some seconds after her twin brother Luke), tries to call her siblings but is unable to for various reasons.

Worse, her father -who the now grown kids all view as flaky, to say the least- are put off when he calls to say he spoke with Nell and is worried she’s about to do something bad.

As it turns out, she returns to Hill House and once there, appears to commit suicide.

This proves to the be the singular action that brings the remaining members of the Crain family together, and in the course of the show’s episodes, we come to learn what happened to each individual member of the family when they were young kids… and come to learn what they’ve become as adults and how they eventually deal with the horror they faced in Hill House.

At times, the mini-series is flat out brilliant. There is one episode in particular that features a very long “one take” (I’m sure they cheated a little here and there, but still!) at the funeral home where Nell’s body is on display. As a fan of movies, that sequence took my breath away.

Further, the movie gives you some genuinely creepy moments and well earned scares. We feel for these people, each and every one of them, and by the end I even let out a couple of tears…

…but…

It really pains me to say it but the movie’s final episode, actually the final half hour or so of the series, while very emotional and caused me to wipe a few tears away also subverts what came before it to such a degree that, when all was said and done, I felt more and more bothered by it.

It’s a tough thing to say, after some 8 and 1/2 hours of pretty damn brilliant work to feel let down by the last 1/2 hour or so, but I have to be honest: It bugged me.

I don’t want to get into SPOILERS so I’ll do so after presenting the mini-series’ trailer. Even then, I’m going to try to tread lightly because, frankly, even with the disappointment I felt after the fact, I still loved so much about this mini-series that I recommend it strongly regardless.

Perhaps others won’t be quite as bothered by the ending and I sincerely wish I could say the same.

Still, strongly recommended!

Just for the heck of it -and before we get into SPOILERS- here’s the trailer for the original version of the book, 1963’s The Haunting

SPOILERS FOLLOW…!

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!!

Still there?

If you have any interest in seeing this mini-series, I strongly urge you NOT to proceed. As I said above, I will try not to spoil everything but nonetheless I’m going to be talking about what bothered me about the series’ ending and, by doing so, I will inevitably spoil quite a bit.

So, please, if you intend to see the series, do so before proceeding.

You’ll be happier.

Otherwise…

OK, so here goes:

The Haunting of Hill House essentially has the various members of the Crain family come together -reluctantly in many of their cases- because of the death of the youngest member of the family, Nell, who returned to the dreaded Hill House, where their mother died, and apparently committed suicide there.

By being brought together, however, we revisit what they experienced in Hill House originally, and through the course of the mini-series we come to find that they saw many ghostly creatures and, understandably, came out of this not all that well.

Again, I don’t want to spoil everything, but the series’ climax has them returning to the house to try to save one of them, who has returned to the house to destroy it, not realizing that by doing so they may well be feeding its evil.

They arrive, mostly separately, and there they are placed in the “heart” of the house, the place where it wants them, to feed of them, to have their souls.

Here’s the thing, though: after spending some 8 and 1/2 hours or so being told how evil the house is, how it killed both their mother and youngest sister/daughter, the finale of the series shows them confronting the house and their fear and, despite the fact that the house still wants them dead, makes this very, very sharp turn where the spirit of their dead sister/daughter makes them realize they need each other and, I don’t know, where their love for each other makes them come together. All but one of them leave this place all happy and with their terrors resolved. Also, we’re given one more plot addition, another last minute victim of Hill House whose parents -preposterously- allow their child’s death to pass and agree to hide it. Years later these parents return to the house to, I don’t know, join the spirt of their daughter more fully as they pass away.

So this house that for 8 and 1/2 hours is presented as this black, evil thing, is suddenly this place where all these traumas are resolved for everyone and even come back to the house to seek peace!!!!

This makes no sense given all the horrors we see earlier on and the very clear indications that Hill House is evil.

Yeah.

Again, I really, really hate to go after such a magnificent series but the change in tone at the very end of the series proved simply too great for me. It was the equivalent of story telling whiplash.

I’ll say no more because, again, I don’t want to spoil everything. Suffice it to say, perhaps it won’t be as bothersome to others as it was to me.

Still, even with that ending, I still loved the mini-series. Next up is The Haunting of Bly Manor, released this year and featuring many of the same actors in a story of a different haunted house.

When I see it, I’ll give you my impressions!

Only In L.A…

Those three words above are a quote at the very end of this article by Lauren M. Johnson and presented on CNN.com:

A man flying a jetpack has been spotted again in the skies over L.A.

We got ourselves quite the daredevil out there!

Seems that an individual with a jet pack has been spotted -with this latest stunt!- at least twice, the first time in September 1, by pilots coming into L.A.

The individual’s altitude was first reported at 3000 feet. This time around?

6000 feet!

Whoa.

Don’t know who this person is but I have to give them credit: They do seem to have developed an interesting device, if it is capable of such altitude.

I know it may sound silly, but I wonder: Can they land with the thing or does it simply go up, run out of gas or whatever power it has, then the dude parachutes back to earth?

I suspect we’ll find out soon enough…!

So Florida has Florida Man. I suppose L.A. now has Jet Pack Man or Woman!

POSTSCRIPT:

So I did a little looking around, specifically on Reddit, regarding this story and a couple of people pointed out something which may be true: This could be either a) a drone with a human looking mannequin on it or b) a man/woman on a wingsuit who jumped out of an airplane and is flying around this way. In other words, if it is a person, they might not have “lifted off” from the ground but were already airborne when they started their flight.

Regarding the later theory, a person with a wingsuit who jumped out of an aircraft, that’s something others would notice, even at the airport they departed from, as its tough to enter an aircraft with such equipment and not be seen.

As for the former, some goofball using a drone with a human shaped mannequin on it, that seems like it could also be a legitimate possibility. But to get to 6000 feet, the drone would have to be a pretty sophisticated one, I would think, and not the type you’d find in Best Buy, no?

Regardless, whoever is doing this, whether indeed we have someone with an almost science fictional jet pack or a was dropped from an aircraft with a wingsuit or a drone with a mannequin… its all incredibly dangerous.

I hope whoever is doing this is found and stopped before they smash into an actual aircraft.

Vacation Anyone?

One of the hardest hit industries during the COVID-19 crisis has to be the tourism industry.

By that I mean airlines, cruise ships, railway, hotels, etc. etc.

Is anyone out there taking any major vacations?

Over on CNN.com I found this article, by Simret Aklilu, concerning the famous Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, which is about to shut down…

New York’s Roosevelt Hotel to close after nearly 100 years due to the coronavirus pandemic

The Hotel first opened in 1924 and is a famous New York landmark but, because of such low demand for rooms -and if you don’t rent rooms, you don’t make money- it will “permanently close its doors this year,” according to a spokesman for the Hotel.

At the risk of completely spoiling the article, they further state that beyond shutting down, they have no other plans for what to do with the Hotel.

I assume -a dangerous thing to do!- that maybe they just want to cut down on all expenses to keep the property operating at a loss and hope that in the new year and when a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed they will be able to re-open. Then again, I’ve read elsewhere for many years this Hotel has been viewed as low quality with small rooms (makes sense, given the original building was made so long ago).

It is located in a prime spot, however, and one wonders if the owners will ultimately sell.

It also makes me wonder, though, how things are going for Disney and Universal and their parks.

Disney World and Universal in Florida, I understand, are open but have very minimal crowds, while the parks in California are closed. I believe some of the parks in other countries are open as well, but I suspect they too are facing pretty anemic crowds.

After some seven months since COVID-19 became a big issue here in the United States, we continue to do… not much of anything, it seems.

At first there was a shut down, but because the administration was never clear as to what to do to prevent transmission, it was up to the states to determine their own paths.

That has proven to be insanity.

We are north of 200,000 people dead, with the possibility of another 20,000 dead by the end of this year, and whole industries -and all the employees desperate to keep their jobs- are hurting.

The upcoming closure of the Roosevelt Hotel is but one symptom of the much larger problem.

A problem whose solution doesn’t seem to be coming very soon.

The Man Who SOld The World 2020 Visconti Remix

I noted a few days ago (you can read it here) that there were a few upcoming releases I was looking forward to, prominent of which was the Tony Visconti remix of David Bowie’s seminal album The Man Who Sold The World, which would be re-released under its original title, Metrobolist.

David Bowie - Metrobolist (aka The Man Who Sold The World) - Amazon.com  Music

The full album is due to be released on November 6th and you can bet I’ll be there to pick it up.

The Man Who Sold The World/Metrobolist is one of my all time favorite David Bowie albums and The Man Who Sold The World, the song, is my all time favorite David Bowie song.

I discovered the song way back in 1984 or so, well before it became big with Nirvana’s famous take on it, which many feel is the best version of the song (sorry, I totally disagree, even if I do feel Nirvana did a pretty terrific version of it).

So blown away am I, to this day, by this song that I feel like it courses through my very blood and somehow always seems to find its way -subtly or not- in my writings.

That’s how much I love the song.

When I heard Tony Visconti, Bowie’s longtime producer, would remix the album, I was very much interested.

Tony Visconti is a terrific talent, a producer who has not only had his hand on many of Bowie’s best works -as producer- but also many other bands.

More recently, he did what I thought was a terrific job re-mixing Bowie’s album Lodger and he did an equally terrific job, IMHO, last year remixing Bowie’s first big hit, Space Oddity

I was incredibly stunned by how much better, IMHO, this new remix sounded compared to the already pretty damn spectacular original.

So, to say the least, I was damned curious to hear what Mr. Visconti would do with The Man Who Sold The World, both album and especially song.

Welp, today we can hear this new version of the song. Here it is:

I’m… I’m torn, to be honest.

The song starts out quite well but then, when it gets to the chorus, the “Who knows? Not me… We never lost control… You’re face to face with the man who sold the world” part…

That damn reverb just kills me. While I felt some of the reverb Mr. Visconti added on Space Oddity worked quite well with that song, it didn’t do so on this one.

Here’s the original version of the song, a 2015 remix which stuck to the original…

Yeah, much better, IMHO.

Mind you, I don’t think what Mr. Visconti did was terrible, its just that the I prefer the original without those reverb flourishes. Further, I’m becoming somewhat concerned that this is what Visconti likes to do: Add reverb to Bowie songs. He did so, if memory serves, also to a song or two in Lodger as well.

Still, I am curious to hear the rest of the album, especially Bowie’s epic song The Width of a Circle, also from the album…

I just hope what comes out of it isn’t a bunch more reverb…!

News of the Macabre…

Over at CNN.com comes this report by Amanda Jackson:

A man fell to his death while taking pictures on a cliff in Arizona. Authorities discovered other remains while recovering his body

Don’t want to give away the story but, essentially, most of it is indeed given away with the headline.

A 25 year old man, taking pictures off a cliff in Arizona, fell to his death. Upon recovering the man’s body, officials found other human remains…!

The story is developing. According to the article, what was found near this man’s body were human bones. I don’t know if they are remains of one person or more (I suspect -perhaps hope!- that its only one person’s lost remains) but clearly whoever it was died a while back, considering all that’s left now are bones.

Chilling story, both regarding the gentleman who died and whoever the bones found belong to.

I suppose the only positive about a story like this is that hopefully the bones found will be identified and someone will have closure on the loss of a loved one.

Hopefully.

A Subtle Shift…?

Seems all I can do is politics nowadays.

I’ve noticed that the common opinion has shifted from a “this race will tighten down the line” to “this might be a Democratic blowout election.”

While by now it should be clear to those who come ’round these parts that I have no love for Trump, looking at his last couple of weeks as neutrally as one can, it has been nothing short of a series of disasters.

It all seemed to begin with the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

The loss of the beloved liberal icon in the Supreme Court brought out the absolute worst/hypocritical in the Republican party (Merrick Garland, anyone?) and culminated with the infamous Rose Garden gathering to introduce Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court… which resulted in what appears to be a super-spreader event. In the end, we have many top officials within the government -Trump included- catching this virus, though given the evasiveness of the Trump administration, one wonders if Trump himself might have been infected already when that meeting occurred.

Mind you, I have no desire to see anyone ill.

Having said that, Trump and many of those people who were there, flouting a sense of invincibility, getting COVID-19 seems almost poetic justice or karma.

How do you keep downplaying/minimizing something that has, to date, claimed 211,000 lives?

The Vice Presidential debate, held last night, appears to have done little to move the general narrative. According to subsequent polls, Pence “lost” the debate. Even if the debate was a “tie”, the Trump campaign needed a sterling performance to try to break things toward them and this debate did not do that.

This morning, it was announced the next Presidential debate, set for October 15th, would be conducted virtually and Trump, calling into shows, stated he would not participate in any such debate.

Huh.

In late September of 2016, there were only some 10,000 votes cast in advance versus 1.3 million in late September of 2020.

Today, not quite two weeks later and according to CNN, more than 5.4 million ballots have been cast.

Obviously there is a tremendous amount of interest in voting this year versus 2016 and in the coming days other states, such as Texas, will start early voting above and beyond mail in ballots.

Here’s the thing, though: We still have close to four weeks to go and any number of things can happen still.

I’ve already voted by mail and, out of an abundance of caution, delivered the ballot directly to the election office.

I’ve made my voice heard.

I hope everyone else out there does so, too.

2020 Gets Even Worse: Eddie Van Halen Dead At 65…

Man, as the headline states, could this year get any worse?

Eddie Van Halen, TMZ reports, has passed away at the age of 65.

For the past decade, it was reported, he had been battling throat cancer and, finally, it spread to his brain and other organs.

As someone who grew up in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Eddie Van Halen and his band, Van Halen, were one of the big ones that were heard frequently on the radio. Lead singer David Lee Roth provided plenty of swagger as the lead singer but Eddie Van Halen’s guitar work was impressive, to say the least…!

I still remember when the album 1984 was released and these songs were HUGE hits on the radio upon their release…

As should be obvious by now, my preference of Van Halen songs tends to skew toward the David Lee Roth years. They were known for their very heavy sound, certainly, but unlike some metal music acts that came later they always seemed to be playing around/goofing off. In the case of Eddie Van Halen in particular, it seemed he always played with a huge smile on his face, like he was having a blast and never taking things all that seriously.

After the release of 1984, though, things started to go south for Van Halen. There were tensions between the band and David Lee Roth and he was gone after that album and Sammy Hagar joined the group as the lead singer.

Truthfully, I can’t say I was much of a fan of that version of Van Halen, even though I have/had nothing against Mr. Hagar. It just didn’t work as well for me. Though that version of the band was together for some 10 years, Hagar left and Gary Cherone was brought in for one album (if memory serves) but lasted together only some 3 years.

David Lee Roth re-united with the band twice while Hagar re-joined once but it was always temporary and the glory days of the band, it seemed, were in the past.

For the past several years very little has been heard about Eddie Van Halen other than that he was sick, but I never knew the situation was as grave as it was and the news of his passing is a real shock.

Think I might pull out an old album and give it a whirl…

Upcoming…!

Been a while since I’ve been excited to see/hear some new releases and it turns out there are at least three things being released in the next couple of months I’m intrigued about.

First up is the November 6th release of the newly remastered David Bowie album Metrobolist.

What, you never heard of that album?

Welp, for good reason: This was the original title David Bowie had for the album that was eventually known as The Man Who Sold The World.

See, at quite literally the very last minute the record company decided Metrobolist was too weird a title (I guess) and renamed it after what is probably the most famous song on it.

The album will feature its original artwork, the cartoonish bit you see above, along with the photographs of Bowie in a dress which wound up being used on the album’s cover later on…

Metrobolist/The Man Who Sold The World is officially David Bowie’s third album after David Bowie and Space Oddity and, IMHO, the first “real” Bowie album through and through. Others might quibble and say Space Oddity is the “real” first Bowie album but, other than a few intriguing songs -including his first big hit- I feel that album is still showing Bowie as a work in progress.

Longtime Bowie producer Tony Visconti has remastered the album and, based on how well he remastered the song Space Oddity (he also remastered the entire album, but I have yet to hear it), it could prove to be something quite special. We’ll see on November 6th!

Next up, also for a November 6th release, is Albert Bouchard’s Re Imaginos.

For those who don’t know the name, Mr. Bouchard used to be the drummer for Blue Oyster Cult and, perhaps most famously, was the one responsible for the “cowbell” in their hit song Don’t Fear The Reaper.

However, back in the 1980’s, the band and he had a falling out and he left them. Shortly afterwards and in the early 1980’s he worked on an album he called Imaginos, which used many of Blue Oyster Cult’s songs and created a concept album.

However, acrimony between the band and he led to the album being taken away from his hands. It was re-worked by the other members of the band and eventually released in 1988…

Bouchard’s original demo version of the album was leaked years ago and can be heard here:

Anyway, the years past and we fast forward to now and Blue Oyster Cult, without Bouchard as their drummer, are about to release a new album. Amusingly, their first music video release for their first single, That Was Me, features a guest appearance by Albert Bouchard and he’s banging away at a… cowbell! (He first appears around the 1:05 mark of the below video)

My guess, when I first saw the video, was that Mr. Bouchard and the remaining original members of Blue Oyster Cult have (perhaps) settled their differences and are even having a laugh at their shared past, though based on the video it doesn’t appear Mr. Bouchard has returned to the band but rather re-appeared for this video and/or provided “cowbell” for that particular song.

However, shortly following the release of the above single/video, I read that Mr. Bouchard was going to release Re Imaginos, his polished up version of the original Imaginos album. A video was released for the song Black Telescope, which is a considerable departure from Workshop of the Telescopes, the original version of the song made by Blue Oyster Cult.

Here’s Mr. Bouchard’s new version of the song from Re Imaginos, which takes on an old mariner’s sound:

And here’s the original version of the song…

Interestingly, if you go back to that demo of Bouchard’s Imaginos I presented above, Workshop of the Telescopes/Black Telescope wasn’t part of that original version of his album!

Anyway, Re Imaginos comes out on November 6th, as I said before, and it should be interesting to hear, especially if you’re a fan of Blue Oyster Cult!

Finally, its been announced that Christopher Nolan’s Tenet will be released to home video come December 15th.

I’m very curious to see the film but there was simply no way I would go to a theater to see it. First, the local theaters in my neck of the woods were closed through the original release dates. Secondly, even if they were open I wouldn’t have felt comfortable being in an enclosed area watching a 2 hour long film. It’s simply not safe.

But I will pick up the movie when its released to home video!

Has Driving Peaked…?

Over at bloomberg.com, Justin Fox wrote a fascinating article that examined the amount of driving done within the United States since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and wonders if these numbers might indicate we’ve peaked in terms of driving out:

Americans are driving less than before the pandemic, and it might be permanent

Now, before you ask: There is no implication that driving is done.

But there are indicators that maybe we’ve (as I said above) peaked in terms of driving and that even when we get over the COVID-19 situation things might remains roughly as they are, with driving patterns dropping some 10% or so versus what they were before the pandemic.

Why?

For one, it appears many jobs may move from offices to employees’ homes.

This is logical: Many things can be accomplished on a computer and if there’s one thing the pandemic has revealed is that you don’t have to go to the office to do certain work. It is possible there will be many jobs which will require an employee show up to the office perhaps once a week or so versus 5 days a week. Hence, less driving.

The second big takeaway is that online services such as restaurants or Amazon or grocery stores, etc. etc. are delivering more and more products directly to people’s homes.

When people do this, while there are trucks and cars on the roads doing the delivery, it winds up being many less cars on the road as one delivery truck might mean the elimination of several individuals and their cars on the road. One UPS truck, for example, filled with product might well eliminate the need for dozens of households to go out and look for any particular product!

Again, no one is claiming the days of the automobile are done, only that because of work at home and delivery of product, it may be curtailed for the long run.

Fascinating stuff!

The Next Week…

Last week was a heck of a week, eh?

The first Presidential debate followed by the revelation that President Trump and his wife -and several other Republican Senators and Presidential Staff- testing positive for COVID-19.

Over on TV, Saturday Night Live had a pretty funny take on the debate, and what happened later…

Funny -and simultaneously sad- stuff.

The concluding bits, with “Biden” pausing “Trump” and noting how nice it was not to hear “Trump’s” ramblings…

Beautiful stuff.