“The Haunting of Bly Manor” is Netflix’s follow up to the critically acclaimed horror series “The Haunting of Hill House”. This time around, show creator Mike Flanagan (known for his horror films, which he has directed, wrote, and edited) beguiles us with his vision of the 1898 Henry James horror novella “The Turn of the Screw”.
Unlike its predecessor though, Bly Manor trades in jump scares for captivatingly haunted storytelling. So be prepared for devastating revelations and heartbreaking tales of love and woe in this exceptional ghost story. (Shhhhhh!)
“But I think you set it up wrong. You said it was a ghost story. It isn’t. It’s a love story.” This line from the series perfectly encompasses the entire twisting plotline as the story flips all your preconceived notions about the show on their head. If you go into this series expecting the same level of freight as you did in “The Haunting of Hill House”, you will be disappointed … at first. Then that disappointment washes away quickly as more and more of this gripping narration unfolds. While there are ghosts that pop up throughout the series, the show isn’t really about that. Instead of the high-intensity horror of Hill House, Bly Manor slowly spoon feeds you creepy and unsettling tension.
The story revolves around a young American woman named Dani Clayton played by Victoria Pedretti. Who, while on vacation in England, takes a job as an au pair to two orphaned children named Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) and Flora (Amelie Bea Smith) who live in the English countryside.
Creepy kids, a giant manor in the English countryside…I know it sounds like a plot for disaster. And you would be right, but it’s not the horror that will get you, it’s the stirring chronicles of those who stay in Bly Manor that will leave you absolutely gut-punched. As you would imagine, things start to get terrifying for Dani as the children begin acting weird, and she soon begins to see people that aren’t really there…people that shouldn’t be there.
Pedretti’s portrayal of Dani shines as the heart of this dread-filled tale and the chilling performances by Ainsworth and Smith will have you running to turn on the lights while diving under your favorite blanket.
Other returning cast members from Hill House include Henry Thomas who gives an exceptional performance as the uncle of the two children, Henry Wingrave. Henry is plagued by his demons throughout the series as he can not stand to be in Bly Manor, after the death of his brother and sister-in-law. Also returning is Oliver Jackson-Cohen who plays Peter Quint, the right-hand man to Henry Wingrave.
Carla Gugino and Kate Siegel also return in smaller yet impactful roles. Newcomers to the series are Tahirah Shariff (Rebecca Jessel), Amelia Eve (Jamie) who plays the gardener. Eve’s scenes alongside Pedretti are powerful and heart-rending but are also what drive the series.
Also new to the series are T’Nia Miller (Hannah aka Mrs. Grose) who plays the housekeeper and Rahul Kohli (Owen) who plays the cook. Ahh…Rahul Kohli, with his giant bushy mustache, Doctor Who-esque wardrobe, and an endless supply of dad jokes (seriously they are so bad yet so good). He is the absolute gem of this series! Although he and T’Nia Miller’s character share a beautiful and gut-wrenching side story (which is my favorite), Kohli’s performance as Owen radiates wholesome charm and sheer goodness during this utterly macabre narration.
As the tale of Bly Manor progresses, Flanagan lulls the viewer into a false sense that they might know where the story is going and then completely proves them wrong! It is in episode 5 of the 9-part series where you begin to see the fruits of Flanagan’s remarkable storytelling. The story kicks into high gear as he begins to reveal the true nature of Bly Manor and the ghosts that inhabit the gloomy grounds. Flanagan drops revelation after shocking revelation making the last few episodes and the series itself an undeniable must watch.
Flanagan masterfully weaves incredibly grievous tales of love and its consequences into a riveting ghost story which culminates into a captivatingly tragic end. While The Haunting of Bly Manor may score low on the jump scare meter, it will undoubtedly leave you feeling the emotional toll brought on by the melancholy conclusion. It offers hours of enthralling narrative storytelling and superb performances from the ensemble cast. Not to mention the theme song is a complete earworm and will give you goosebumps each time you hear it.
“The Haunting of Bly Manor” may not live up to its predecessor in the fright department, but it surpasses Hill House in heart and storytelling. 8/10 – Great
Photo: THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR (L to R) VICTORIA PEDRETTI as DANI in THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR Cr. EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2020