The Haunting of Hill House – Blu-ray Review

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Film Title: The Haunting of Hill House
Release Date: 2018
Rating: NOT RATED
Runtime: 569 minutes / 212 minutes (extended episodes)
Region Coding: Region A
Distributor: Paramount
Audio Format: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1
Formats Available: Blu-ray
Version Reviewed: Blu-ray Disc
Blu-ray Release Date: 10/15/19
Director: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Michiel HuismanCarla GuginoHenry Thomas, Timothy HuttonOliver Jackson-Cohen, Kate Siegel, Victoria Pedretti, Elizabeth Reaser, Paxton Singleton, Julian Hilliard, Mckenna Grace, Violet McGraw, Annabeth Gish, Robert Longstreet

Jump to Sections: Show | Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full Blu-ray Tech Specs can be found at the very bottom.

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The Show

“The Haunting of Hill House” was a 2018 TV show that was made as a joint collaboration between Amblin Television, Paramount Television, and Netflix. It would first air on the Netflix streaming service. This show was loosely based on a 1959 novel (of the same title) written by Shirley Jackson. The book itself already had been adapted twice into films before this with The Haunting (1963) and again as The Haunting (1999). A lot of references visually are made in this television show’s first season as an obvious homage to the original 1963 film.

This 2018 show was created by and the story was primarily reimagined (adapted) by Mike Flanagan. Most people today who are fans of horror will know Flanagan as the director of the upcoming film adaptation Stephen King‘s “Doctor Sleep” (2019). He’s also known for some other films, of the horror genre (as well), such as “Gerard’s Game” (2017), “Hush” (2016), “Ouija: Origin of Evil” (2016), “Before I Wake” (2016), “Oculus” (2013), and “Absentia” (2011).

The story here, while loosely inspired by the novel, focuses on a group of siblings along with their mother and father in two different time periods: in the past when they were all children growing up in The Hill House and in the present where they are all grown up (in their twenties & thirties). They all, along with the parents, face their own ghosts and haunted parts of their lives as well as experience some encounters with real ghosts all throughout the house and somewhat even through their grown lives. All of this is told in a nonlinear method, skipping back and forth between the time periods in an absolutely tasteful manner.

This show (in its first season) was very successful in making you care about its characters and keeping you pretty freaked out along the way. It’s downright creepy as all hell and it really just as captivating as well. This is binge-watching material for sure, as people found out in 2018 first back on Netflix. Both the critics and viewers loved it, as it still carries a very nice Certified Fresh rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. Even famed author and full-time critic Stephen King went as far as to call this show “close to work of genius, really.” (as quoted on the packaging)

It’s amazing that this totally nonlinear telling of a horror story based on a book (released back in 1959) was able to really finally connect with a great amount viewers. The greatest news of all here, to me the fan, is that “The Haunting of…” has now become an anthology series, as it was renewed by Netflix, and will continue to have new seasons with entirely new story and even use familiar cast members (in entirely new roles) continuing with “The Haunting of Bly Manor” in 2020.

Show Rating: 5 (out of 5)


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Video Quality

“The Haunting of Hill House” on Blu-ray is presented in the 2.00:1 aspect ratio and was shot digitally in 6K resolution using the Arri Rental Alexa 65 camera with Prime 65 and Prime 65 S lenses.

There’s a rather impressive amount of detail to be found here, but obviously not as much as found in the 4K presentation (featured on Netflix). It also lacks the High Dynamic Range (HDR) as well. That’s not any reason to say this doesn’t look great for HD (high definition) on home video. In fact, this makes for an excellent Blu-ray release of the show.

I’m totally glad that this show got a Blu-ray, don’t get me wrong here, even though I do have to admit that I would have preferred it had also received a 4K release – as it also aired in that format on Netflix. Unfortunately, it did not get a 4K release physically but there’s maybe a chance later it could if this show sales well on Blu-ray and if in its second season proves to be just as successful as the first. Who knows? Paramount hasn’t been really ready it seems to start releasing any television shows on that format yet.

Still, with that all being said, The Haunting of Hill House on Blu-ray really looks very nice visually in just high definition. The black level is solid here and colors have obviously been subdued to fit a unique visual style. There certainly are accurate representations of skin tones and at times there’s vibrant feeling in the colors of some of the costumes or set designs. The changes of cool to warm tones can come throughout the episodes and over the course of the season, setting the mood perfectly.

For a 10-hour horror story, via ten episodes, The Haunting of Hill House (on Blu-ray) proves to be impressive. The picture quality, in 1080p HD, shows off almost all of the detail in terms of set design, wardrobe, special effects, and all. This looks and feels like a big-budget film, by all means. Plus, it’s worth mentioning that each episode here physically on the disc(s) is running an almost steady 23Mbps bitrate. This encode is great but it’s not entirely flawless, as I’ll have to admit that it does, however, manage to have a tiny bit of compression visible on ironically the last episode, right near the end. That all being said, this still earns a perfect 5 for the video quality on Blu-ray. I do wish, as mentioned, that we could have also received a 4K release though. Sorry, I couldn’t help but end on that.

Video Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)


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Audio Quality

Audio here for “The Haunting of Hill House” on its Blu-ray Disc release is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround – unlike the Dolby Atmos found on the Netflix streaming version of the show. That sound format is much more immersive and adds height channels, whereas this keeps the basic 6-channel surround mix and delivers it in a high bitrate lossless codec (that just so happens to be the core to Atmos). So, with all of that out of the way, let’s just say that this sounds pretty damn impressive for a television series.

It sounds creepy as all hell and has a very over-the-top level of approach when it wants to have it. The only difference you’ll notice here in 5.1 versus the Atmos (on Netflix) is that it just misses the height speakers. There is a very effective amount of rear channel usage all throughout each episode and also from time to time this tremendous bit of bass via the subwoofer. The bass here can absolutely roar and will totally help put you on the edge, especially when a good scare comes along. Rest assured, that happens pretty often. Dialogue is delivered spot-on here and there is no need whatsoever for volume adjustment in regards to that. It does just seem a bit louder than it did on Netflix but that’s fine by me.

The Haunting of Hill House on Blu-ray certainly got an impressive overall audio presentation, well worthy of a 4.75 rating. I only give it that, instead of a perfect score, because of the fact that it could have been just a tad bit better if it had received Atmos sound like it has over on Netflix. However, I think this choice to go with just Dolby TrueHD 5.1 may really have been to perhaps avoid that it would have taken a total four discs (instead of the three used) to have presented this show on BD-50 discs with that audio format. Plus there are the three extended episodes you’d have to factor in that are separate video files entirely for each. It just made sense somehow here with those factored in to only go with Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound instead of the slightly larger Atmos audio file. That’s just a slight bit of a different file sized addition when you’re using that audio lossless 5.1 formats (6 channel) over the slightly more complex object-based current audio format [Atmos].

So let me be clear here, I’m fine with this choice [not to include Atmos] but I have to think about if it had received Atmos (available, obviously) how much would it have been better? I think a lot better but this still proves to be downright impressive as hell and near-perfect in terms of a lossless 5.1 surround mix for a horror story (show). It really does this show justice in that configuration, which let’s face it, most consumers are likely to be using. Still, you have to factor in a what-if or what if they ever released it again, like on 4K UHD Blu-ray for example? That’s why this didn’t get a perfect score. Plain and simple. It comes damn near close though, rest assured. This is what we in this field call some intense bass and very effective use of the rear channels to scare the ever-living hell out of you over the course of ten episodes.

Audio Quality Rating: 4.75 (out of 5)


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Bonus Materials

Bonus materials on this release are presented in HD (high definition) video with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound – unless otherwise noted below. They include the following:

Disc 1 includes:

  • Episode 1 (Steven Sees A Ghost) has an Extended Director’s Cut (1:04:58 – HD) and optional audio commentary by director Mike Flanagan. This extended episode gets roughly five minutes of additional scenes added [back] in, compared to the original episode as first seen on Netflix. These episodes with an Extended Director’s Cut also feature Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo for the audio commentary. This audio commentary track is amazingly insightful and entertaining. In fact, the director himself is a fan of audio commentary tracks. He discusses first, here in this first episode, how he came Amblin Television to roughly adapt the original novel by Shirley Jackson. He refers to his version of a remix of sorts, with the unique unconventional nonlinear two timeline way of storytelling. There are some excellent pieces of trivia here, such as the character Shirley being named after the original novel’s author (Shirley Jackson), as well as the character Steven being named after the legendary filmmaker, founder, and head of Amblin: Steven Spielberg. These characters were not in the original story, in fact, they weren’t siblings and that all was primarily adapted by Flanagan. The director goes on to discuss each additional scene that he was able to restore here, for the Director’s Cut, that was cut from the Netflix versions. You can tell the director really has a lot of enthusiasm regarding this project as well as getting to present us with these episodes in their extended form. Netflix seems to have made him cut his original work for pacing reasons, especially for this episode because it served as a pilot (first episode). Another very interesting bit of audio commentary here involved Flanagan (also show creator) describing it as way more Six Feet Under than American Horror Story. I couldn’t help but feel that to be the truth while watching the series, as well as find the similarities. So, it’s a bit fun to actually hear those were obviously in mind. This commentary track is just downright intriguing. The best part? There are three more of these audio commentary tracks, so be prepared for even more hours of observation, meanings, behind the scenes stories, and of course even more trivia.

Disc 2 includes:

  • Episode 5 (Bent-Neck Lady) has an Extended Director’s Cut (1:12:43 – HD) and optional audio commentary by director Mike Flanagan. This extended episode gets roughly 3 minutes of additional scenes added [back] in, compared to the original episode as first seen on Netflix. These episodes with an Extended Director’s Cut also feature Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo for the audio commentary. Once again this audio commentary is totally worth listening to after you’ve watched the extended episode.
  • Episode 6 (The Two Storms) features optional audio commentary with director Mike Flanagan. This discusses how this episode was inspired by an episode [The Body] of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2001) as well as the Alfred Hitchcock film Rope (1948). The entire episode is almost entirely comprised of lengthy one-shot sequences that skip around seamlessly between the two time periods featured in the show: past and present – with cast members from each and sets to make it all possible. This is astonishing once you realize how it was shot exactly and what painstaking effort it truly took to make this episode happen (as we can see HERE).

Disc 3 includes:

  • Episode 10 (Silence Lay Steadily) has an Extended Director’s Cut (1:14:38 – HD) and optional audio commentary by director Mike Flanagan. This extended episode gets roughly 4 minutes of additional scenes added [back] in, compared to the original episode as first seen on Netflix. These episodes with an Extended Director’s Cut also feature Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo for the audio commentary. This one episode is a must-watch and the commentary is a must-listen as well.

Overall the bonus materials here are pretty good and thorough. The three extended Director’s Cut episodes are very nice to have included and the four total audio commentary tracks by director Mike Flanagan are all worth listening to in their entirety after you’ve enjoyed the ten episodes (as well as extended episodes). If you’re looking for more, I’d totally suggest some of the YouTube videos that Netflix posted such as The Making of Episode 6, Meet the Crains, Horror Shop, and Directing Fear.

Bonus Materials Rating: 3 (out of 5)


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Closing Thoughts

The Haunting of Hill House really does feel like a ten-hour movie more than a TV show, or season of now an anthology series, just as Mike Flanagan was going for – especially now with the three extended episodes. This is an excellent show and it’s just so creepy with this amazingly unique type of storytelling, and loosely using the existing 1959 story (of the same title) from a novel as inspiration. This [show] is nothing short of impressive, scary as all hell, emotionally driven, and most importantly downright thought-provoking. I highly recommend giving The Haunting of Hill House a watch.

It’s very nice to see how impressive this show looks just presented in 1080p on Blu-ray in comparison to the 4K with HDR (as seen on Netflix). It’s perfect for the format. The audio here is what sadly might get some folks a little bit upset with it only being in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 instead of the Dolby Atmos (found on Netflix). There’s very likely some reason for that choice, as I speculate about above in the audio quality section. Still, it’s a very intense and pretty impressive 5.1 lossless mix that nearly does the show justice.

Finally, on this Blu-ray release of the show, you get some very nice extras in the format of three [optional] extended episodes (as Director’s Cuts) and four excellent audio commentary tracks by director Mike Flanagan. It’s a bit sad we don’t get any behind-the-scenes footage or making-of featurettes but those can be found on Netflix‘s YouTube account. Just search for The Haunting of Hill House Netflix Featurette over on YouTube and you’ll find them there.

In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
5 (out of 5) for video quality
4.75 (out of 5) for audio quality
3 (out of 5) for bonus materials


Overall Verdict:

Highly Recommended


Available As:

2019 Blu-ray Release


Blu-ray Disc Screenshots:


Packaging:


 

Blu-ray Technical Specifications:

 

Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1
Exact Runtime(s): 569 minutes (original episodes) / 212 minutes (extended episodes)
Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (with a Dolby Digital 5.1 core)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
Disc Sizes: BD-50 (x3)
Disc Use: Disc 1 – 44.78GB total / uses 41.8GB for 4 episodes (with 1 extended episode)
Disc 2 – 44.30GB total / uses 39.9GB for 3 episodes (with 1 extended episode)
Disc 3 – 40.9GB total / uses 35.3GB for 3 episodes (with 1 extended episode)
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