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2018 featured a ton of great television across its twelve months, but nothing that rang with the same emotionally harrowing gusto has Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House, which sat atop my list of the year's best shows. Paramount Home Entertainment is rather excellently giving the Mike Flanagan-created horror-drama an official Blu-ray release on October 15, featuring several episodes recut to the director's wishes. You know who's quite excited about those Blu-rays? Hill House star Carla Gugino.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Carla Gugino ahead of The Haunting of Hill House's Blu-ray release date, and all of the Blu-ray and DVD diehards out there will be pumped to know that the actress is cut from a similar cloth. Here's how she expressed her glee:
It's cool. I'm really excited about it. You know, Mike Flanagan and myself, there are so many of us who are just geeks that still have walls and walls of DVDs and Blu-rays. I mean, I still have LaserDiscs in a storage facility. So I love the idea of it being tactile. And most of what I really love, too, is that this story is, from Shirley Jackson to Mike Flanagan, such an auteur piece. It's really so specific, and he's not careless as a filmmaker at all. So everything that he wanted to be in The Haunting of Hill House is on this DVD and Blu-ray.
Carla Gugino is speaking of course about the Blu-ray and DVD sets' exclusive versions of three key Haunting of Hill House episodes, which each get extended "Director's Cut" iterations. Those installments are Ep. 1 ("Steven Sees a Ghost"), Ep. 5 ("The Bent-Neck Lady") and Ep. 10 ("Silence Lay Steadily"), and Gugino does get more time to shine (oh so darkly) as Olivia Crain.
The actress continued:
There are some totally omitted scenes that you never saw, that people on Netflix never got to see, and then there are some scenes that were cut-down versions, and everybody will get to see the full version now. Including some very cool text – some very cool, very poetic text – straight out of Shirley Jackson's mouth. So I'm really excited. I think it's super cool. I think it's also really reflective of Mike as a filmmaker. I'm really excited for him, and for the audience, that they're gonna get to have this opportunity. Because I'm the person who will go out and get the director's cut of a movie on DVD, so I'm really excited about it.
Just as exciting as the extended episodes, at least for me, are the audio commentaries that Mike Flanagan provided for the three aforementioned installments, as well as the now-legendary sixth episode, "Two Storms," which showcases several hyper-extended takes that wowed fans upon The Haunting of Hill House's release. Considering all of the visual bells and whistles that Mike Flanagan affixed to the grief-filled story, as well as the multitude of revisions from Shirley Jackson's novel, Flanagan has a lot to say in these commentaries, and offers up a plethora of behind-the-scenes info about this lovingly crafted project.
Amazingly enough, it's already been more than a year since The Haunting of Hill House first showed up on Netflix in October 2018. It definitely speaks to Mike Flanagan's meticulous dedication in crafting the ten episodes that Paramount is giving Hill House a home entertainment release in time for Halloween 2019. Outside of its Marvel dramas and marquee offerings like House of Cards and Stranger Things, not a lot of Netflix shows get pegged for Blu-ray and DVD releases, and the fact that Hill House is a heavy genre show is all the more encouraging, even if awards shows don't care so much.
During my talk with Carla Gugino, who tore up 2019 with her aces Cinemax action-drama Jett, I asked her how awesome it was to get back into promoting this one-of-a-kind series. She said:
Yeah, it is [awesome]. You know, what I think is really the most gratifying thing about how much this has been in the zeitgeist and how much it seemed to really connect with people so profoundly so quickly, is that [while] it's always nice to have a bunch of people watch something and/or have it be reviewed – all those things are, of course, really lovely – I think the thing that is even more gratifying is when people seem to really quote, unquote 'get' it. Like they actually respond to what you were hoping that you were making, and what you were attempting to make.
A stranger to neither genre filmmaking nor powerful storytelling, Carla Gugino appreciates the fans who can look deeper into the material and find some kind of emotional truth amidst all of the haunted hallways. And in her mind (as well as that of yours truly), Mike Flanagan is the kind of director and writer who knows how to perfectly stack narrative layers upon each other.
Gugino mentioned that Mike Flanagan first brought up the idea of her possibly joining The Haunting of Hill House whenever they worked together for Netflix's Gerald's Game, adapted from Stephen King's novel. (That project was just as stressful and traumatic as Hill House, only with a much shorter running time.) The actress spoke more about her admiration and adoration of Flanagan's take on the material.
When we talked about it, we always talked about the emotional components of the show and the nature of the family, and the nature of a family struggling with grief because of loss. And also just kind of what we all know to be true, which is our minds are sort of our worst enemy. I mean, the voices in our heads are our worst enemies so often, and in a lot of ways, the Red Room represents that. So to take a writer as extraordinary as Shirley Jackson and then have Mike Flanagan sort of be inspired and take that and tell a story that inspired him through that...I think he is such a wonderful filmmaker. There were a lot of nuances and complexities which people may or may not have responded to, and it was really cool to see that people really responding to them, and really got all of the tiny little nuances in addition to cool things like there ghosts appearing in the frames and things like that. But what was interesting is it took off right away, and then it wasn't for about a week and a half that somebody tweeted, 'Wait a minute, did somebody see a ghost in that room? That was a secondary thing that people noticed, which was cool.
During the commentaries for one of the episodes, Mike Flanagan brought up a background ghost sighting that I don't think I'd noticed before, which means there might be more. Which means I'll probably be busy scouring over the episodes until Season 2, The Haunting of Bly Mansion, is available to stream.
The Haunting of Hill House is currently available to stream on Netflix, but those who want the extra footage will need to seek out Paramount Home Entertainment's Blu-ray and DVD releases, which are out on Tuesday, October 15.