A single sentence starts to put all of Netflix’s The Haunting Of Hill House, a series made of ghastly mysteries, into focus. It arrives in season 1 finale “Silence Lay Steadily,” when all four of the living Crain siblings are locked in the usually impenetrable Red Room, along with their ghost of a baby sister, Nell (Victoria Pedretti). Luke (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) has just woken up from a heroin overdose, Nell is spurting out a monologue about confetti and time, and everyone is in a daze.
All of a sudden, some of the greatest questions of the series — what is the Red Room? How does it work? Why is it so creepy? — have a resolution. The Red Room was never just the Red Room. Viewers have seen inside the space countless times earlier in the first season — we simply didn’t notice. But, the clues were there all along.
“All of us have [been here before]. So many times and we didn’t know it. All of us,” Nell announces. This is where the dead young woman reveals that during the Crains’ initial stay at Hill House so many years ago, the Red Room was a dance studio for older sister Theo (Kate Siegel), a game room for eldest brother Steven (Game Of Thrones’ Michiel Huisman), a family room for Shirley, the infamous treehouse for twin Luke, a toy room for Nell herself, and a reading room for their late mother Olivia (Carla Gugino). As we see earlier in the finale, now that Liv is dead, it acts as her sunny forever tea party room.
“But it was always the Red Room,” Nell concludes during her speech. When the dead young woman is finished explaining this revlation, Haunting shows us the room as we know it best: the venue for Liv’s deadly tea party, where she poisoned not-a-ghost Abigail (Olive Elise Abercrombie).
If you’re wondering why a house would do so much spooky interior design work, the answer is that Hill House wanted to devour its inhabitants. By creating spaces each and every member would be drawn to, it could learn about them and drive them mad, paving the way to swallowing the Crains whole. “This room is like the heart of the house. No, not a heart, a stomach,” Nell quips of the room. “It put on different faces so that we’d be still and quiet… while it digested.”
As you watch the montages of the Red Room’s “different faces,” it becomes clear Haunting has been laying the bread crumbs towards this reveal all along. Save for the treehouse, the physicality of the supposedly different “rooms” are identical. There’s the same wood paneling, the same dimensions, the same wooden beams, the same bizarrely thin window in the middle of the largest wall. Even the treehouse shares that unmistakable window with the other versions of the Red Room.
Yet, there were more than just visual clues hiding in the Netflix series. In fact, one of the very first scenes of Haunting Of Hill House suggests something very suspicious is going on with Luke’s version of the Red Room, which is his beloved treehouse.
Towards the end of series premiere “Steven Sees A Ghost,” we step into the flashback timeline, when the Crains are settling into Hill House. Olivia asks Young Steven (Paxton Singleton) if he has seen his little brother (played as a child by a precious, bespectacled Julian Hilliard). “I assume you tried the treehouse?” Steven asks. His mother, without missing a beat, responds, “Very funny mister.” Liv legitimately believes her oldest son is joking. Because for Liv, there isn’t actually a treehouse on the property — Steven has to be telling a joke.
The Haunting debut doubles down on the fact Liv can’t see the treehouse when Steve goes to the room. “Mom’s looking for you. Trying every closet. It never occurs to her you’ll be in your treehouse,” the oldest sibling says. We don’t see Steven’s walk to the “treehouse,” just him walking into the room. Now this conversation makes sense because, for Liv, there is no treehouse to check. If there was one, and it was known to be her son’s favorite hiding space, wouldn’t that be the very first place Liv would look?
Yet, the Red Room makes things as comfortable for an occupant as possible to more easily “digest” them, so Liv would never be able to find it. As Luke says in “Sees A Ghost,” the motto of his safe space is “No Girls Allowed.” Liv qualifies as a girl, so she’s not allowed. Of course, the house still gets to Liv as well, eventually leading the mom to murder a little girl and jump off of a terrifyingly high spiral staircase, to her death. But, she cannot go into that treehouse.
At least we can take a small amount of solace in knowing by the end of the Haunting Of Hill House finale, no more souls are expected to enter the home’s ghoulish walls again or its Red Room. Unless Netflix demands a season 2, that is.
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