Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House was a true viral sensation when it was released in 2018. The horror anthology series chronicled the experiences of the central Crain family during their ill-fated summer spent at the titular Hill House, and how their stay at the haunted home affected their lives for decades thereafter. Try as they might, the Crains never could move on from their time at Hill House, and each member of the family was utterly changed, whether physically, emotionally, or intellectually.
In the world of The Haunting of Hill House, it’s hard to qualify exactly what intelligence means for the Crain family. Is it awareness of the supernatural? Acceptance of the role the demons of Hill House played in their lives? The difference between overcoming or succumbing? Or is it a combination of all of these things?
Those who walked at Hill House may have once walked alone, but through their journey across the series, the Crain family learned that their strength was most definitely found in numbers — and their intelligence, emotional or supernatural or otherwise, absolutely benefited from their union.
It’s easy to make the case that Steven Crain is the most successful member of the Crain family, but by no means does that make him anywhere remotely close to the most intelligent of them. Though Steve goes on to write multiple haunting novels, including one profiting off his own family’s experience at Hill House, he is never able to believe in the reality of what happened until it is almost too late.
Willfully ignoring all that he witnessed during the Crain family’s stay at Hill House, Steven in effect stunted his own emotional growth, forever remaining the petulant teenaged older brother who was willing to accept responsibility only ever in words, not deeds — until the series’ final act.
Shirley is only marginally better off than Steven, in more ways than one, but she is at least open to the possibility of things not being right in the world of Hill House, even in her youth.
In the present, however, Shirley is perhaps just as stubborn and unwilling as Steven, with many of her actions dedicated to keeping up appearances and not disturbing the peace. Rather than connect with her family members, Shirley often withdraws into herself, heightening unnecessary conflicts and closing off potential connections that could have further aided the entire family in their decades-long journey.
As one of the hyper-sensitive Crain twins, Luke is more attuned to the true nature of Hill House than some of his older siblings are, but years of substance abuse have dulled his senses and caused him to struggle with the knowledge he was so unwillingly given as a child.
Luke has his own unique supernatural traumas associated with Hill House, due to being haunted by William Hill, attacked by the burnt ghost, and befriending and losing poor little Abigail Dudley. He is all too aware of how wrong things are at Hill House, but as he has grown older, he has tried in vain to tamp that knowledge down. But he is also one of the first Crains to try (and fail) to tackle the beast that is Hill House on his own, which puts him well above some of his other siblings.