The Haunting of Hill House (Shirley Jackson)

The Haunting of Hill House is a novel by Shirley Jackson.
Finished on: 27.10.2020

John Montague is an avid researcher of supernatural phenomena. When he learns of Hill House, he is convinced that he has finally found the location where he can definitely prove that hautings really take place. He rents Hill House for the summer and invites several people to join him, all of whom have – according to his research – some experience with the supernatural. The ones who take him up are Eleanor Vance, a shy young woman, and Theodora, her polar opposite. Additionally joining them is Luke Sanderson who will inherit Hill House at some point. The four of them settle in Hill House – and things do take an eerie turn quickly, in ways no-one expected.

Shirley Jackson had been on my to-read-list since about forever, and watching Shirley finally gave me the last push to pick up The Haunting of Hill House (which had been lying on my nightstand for at least a year). And hot damn, it was so absolutely great. I’m completely blown away by it.

The book cover showing a woman's shadow reflected in water.
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Shirley (2020)

Director: Josephine Decker
Writer: Sarah Gubbins
Based on: Susan Scarf Merrell‘s novel
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Odessa Young, Michael Stuhlbarg, Logan Lerman
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 23.10.2020

Fred (Logan Lerman) and Rose (Odessa Young) were recently married and are excited to embark on a new step in their life: Fred got a dissertation spot with Stanley Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Rose could enrol at his university, too. Rose is also excited to meet Hyman’s wife, the famous writer Shirley Jackson (Elisabeth Moss). But things come very different than expected. Shirley is abrasive and the few days that Fred and Rose were invited to stay at their home until they get settled in their own turn longer and longer, with Rose picking up more and more of the domestic duties. Her presence seems to help Shirley focus on her work at least, and the two women become closer.

Shirley is a film made of ambivalences – ambivalent characters make very ambivalent choices in a blend of fact and fiction that is also pretty ambivalent. That makes it rather challenging, but I thought it was more than worth it.

The film poster showing Shirley Jackson (Elisabeth Moss) sitting at a desk in the middle of the woods.
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