Some spoilers lurk below for The Haunting of Hill House, so beware.
Netflix’s latest original horror TV series, The Haunting of Hill House, is easily one of the most polished genre entries on the small screen. The central abode is full of freaky sights, complex relationships and moments of profound grief. Luckily, CinemaBlend’s recent interview with Hill House‘s young star Paxton Singleton was neither freaky nor grief-filled.
Paxton Singleton, who plays the younger Steven, told me about how big The Haunting of Hill House was for his burgeoning career. The actor shared some fun and interesting experiences had on the spooky set, and he also has an idea for where the show should go with a potential Season 2. Let’s first focus, however, on the daunting titular mansion itself.
The Hill House Set Was A Masterpiece
Through all ten episodes of The Haunting of Hill House, no human character could have possibly made a bigger impact on viewers’ psyches than the towering and expansive construction at its center. One might think it’d be a fantastic sight to call one’s second home for the duration of the shoot, and according to Paxton Singleton, it was indeed pretty amazing to work in.
The actual Hill House was incredible. You actually saw a mansion every day you worked, because you got to go inside and see all the new things that could have been added. And it was really neat to see all of the different sets. It was an absolute masterpiece. Of course, since it was a timeline difference from the 1990s to 2018, you know that you could see the completely different changes. Maybe even the light switches were different. You know, you could tell a little bit just by the details that you could see from the time difference.
With its seemingly endless number of rooms, Hill House is not at all the kind of dream home that Carla Gugino’s Olivia is dead set on moving into. It does tend to make its inhabitants feel like they’ll be stuck there forever, though. Which is a fair cop, since Hill House does tend to hang onto its more restless and disturbed spirits.
The one element in particular that really sent chills up and down Paxton Singleton’s spine was the room full of statues that lurked in the background of so many shots throughout the season. In fact, it was one of the few rooms he got to hang around in when it was devoid of camera crews and cast members.
Oh, yes. I remember the statues. I got to see the statues a lot. That was one of the main [areas] that I got to see that was just empty, but it looked so real that you thought it looked like an actual haunted house. . . . Your eyes would pick up on it, and say, ‘Ohhh, my god. There’s another statue, and it looks like it’s looking right at me. I think it’s moving. I don’t know.’ And then all of a sudden it may just be right in front of the camera.
Several times during The Haunting of Hill House, I found my eyes quickly drawn to the background simply because a statue could be seen in the shot. And every single time, I was certain the stationary object in question was actually moving all the while, only to be proven wrong. Maybe.
The Timeline Jumps Were Part Of The Filming Process
After watching the entirety of The Haunting of Hill House, with its dual set of central timelines, viewers might have suspected the production was split in half, with the 1990s-set events being filmed first, to later be followed all the current-day scenes getting filmed. But according to Paxton Singleton, that wasn’t how director Mike Flanagan aimed to handle it. In the actor’s words:
We honestly just went back and forth. There was no exact time that you had to do everything. We didn’t do it in order.
From a practical work-based perspective, I might assume shooting The Haunting of Hill House more sequentially would have been a simpler way to tackle it all. However, “simpler” may not be what Mike Flanagan was going for with this decision-making. He may have been trying to keep the house’s haunting air of confusion and delusions fresh within the cast members. That’s definitely less damaging than some of the tactics that other directors have supposedly used.
According to Singleton, the large and ever-changing set split the production up a bit, at least in terms of what would be filming, and where.
But it would be funny, because you’d be on one set, and then your scene would be over, and they might move the camera to the other set. No one would be in that set, and everyone would be in the other one. So you would get to see that one set was completely open and clear, and the other set was just full of people.
As viewers are well aware, there are plenty of moments throughout The Haunting of Hill House in which the camera is set inside an empty room, focused on a particular door, an entryway or some other piece of set design. Indeed, those quiet and action-free moments were often as successful in drawing out dread as the actively supernatural sequences. Because really, we can never really be certain that the room is absolutely empty, can we? Not with Bent Neck Lady roaming around.