The Haunting of Bly Manor is a horror TV series created by Mike Flanagan and loosely based on Henry James’s 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw. It is a follow-up of 2018’s The Haunting of Hill House and the second entry in The Haunting anthology series. The series stars Victoria Pedretti, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Amelia Eve, T’Nia Miller, Rahul Kohli, Tahirah Sharif, Amelie Bea Smith, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Henry Thomas and Carla Gugino.
It is you, it is me, it is us
The Haunting of Bly Manor follows an au pair, Dani, who takes up the job of taking care of two orphaned children, Flora and Miles, living in the desolate Bly Manor. Although things go smoothly at first, everyone has a secret, including the house, and they all merge with each other as time progresses.
The Haunting of Bly Manor is as different from Hill House as two shows can be. Hill House was a phenomenon – a creeping, anxiety-inducing, hallucinating nightmare that was relentless and took your breath away. Bly Manor, on the other hand, is slower and deeper. Every character in the series has a life, a complexity of their own – even the Manor. The series has an impeccable cast and the sheer expanse of characters takes you into an abyss that makes you cry out of joy and sadness when the series ends.
The Haunting of Bly Manor starts off with a woman telling a story about Bly Manor. Dani, taking up the job of an au pair, drives to the desolate home and starts taking care of the little kids. They all seem “perfectly splendid” at first. We have housekeeper Hannah, the gardener Jamie, the cook Owen and the two children, Miles and Flora. Things go off smoothly with the lot – the children are wonderful and the people are loving.
However, as time progresses, Dani realises that there’s more to play at the Manor than meets the eye. She becomes familiar with the lingering spirits of Peter Quint and the previous au pair, Rebecca. As the two kids start displaying increasingly volatile behaviours, the ultimate realisation shakes the people living there.
The series is more character-driven. As the bride at the end says, this isn’t really a horror story – it’s a love story. And she’s honestly quite right. This isn’t Hill House, expecting so will only dampen your experience with the show. It’s a sad and melancholy look at relationships, trauma and love. About finding yourself when everything seems lost, and, although time heals all, past trauma has a nifty way of gnawing itself back to the surface.
This is truly a love story. There’s so much sadness and hopelessness in the situation that it’d shatter your heart into a thousand pieces. There are no good or bad characters in The Haunting of Bly Manor, it’s all grey. Additionally, there’s absolutely so much to learn about these characters – everyone has an interesting backstory, and it all weaves into the bigger picture minutely.
However, this is also where the story falters. The Haunting of Bly Manor has too much information and too little scares. The scares are more emotional and they are scarring. But with 9 hours of content to watch and a series which is, traditionally, a supernatural horror story, there’s not much of the horror or the supernatural aspect. It focuses more on the nature of human beings and their complexities, but it does so in such a huge way that the story loses its tension and charm.
That’s the thing that made Hill House such a fantastic watch. The horror, both supernatural and emotional, were so well balanced. There was a tension and an air of pure panic and claustrophobia surrounding the entire thing. It would make you want to run away and cry, but you also wouldn’t be able to stop watching. However, that’s not the case with Bly Manor. There are extended scenes of people just talking to each other. Which, in itself, is fine because the actors do an amazing job, but the story dredges and becomes boring for long portions.
The Haunting of Bly Manor is also more haphazard. The stories jump from here and there and weave through each other, but sometimes it does that so much that it becomes confusing to follow. There’s a lot of narration and monologues, and I mean A LOT, and they feel disjointed from the original story. Although I’d give it to Flannagan to give grief itself a backstory and a life, it still doesn’t help that it feels almost boring after a certain point.
However, The Haunting of Bly Manor shines with its cast. The cast, much of whom are returning from Hill House, is excellent. They portray their characters with the fear, anxiety, grief and loss that is to be expected from people in those situations. Even during extended monologues, they don’t drop their act for a minute and it’s delightful to watch them embody these people and their stories. The cinematography is great as well, and even though there weren’t anything mind-blowing like that insane Hill House scene (you know what I’m talking about), it’s still dependable and adds to the hopelessness of these lovers.
Summing up: The Haunting of Bly Manor
If you’ve watched The Turning, you’d understand from the moment that the narrator starts telling the story as to where she’s going. However, unlike The Turning, this one isn’t a complete disappointment, at least from the drama point of view. Characters are expertly fleshed out and it’s nice to see that each and every character, even the ghosts, are given a voice. However, there are absolutely too many characters, and most of the time their backstories take up too much space. Also, there is a serious lack of spooks or thrilling moments that helped Hill House shine.
The Haunting of Bly Manor is streaming on Netflix.
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