The follow up to Flanagans Haunting of Hill House shares a gothic love story that does well to be it’s own show and provide a story that’ll bring you to tears different ways.
The Haunting of Bly Manor takes us to a creepy manor house set in Bly, England as part of a ghost story told the night before a wedding in a castle. The narrator promises something captivating based on the fact that ghosts stories with a child are always more, but this one has two.
Bly Manor’s narrative is focused on Dani (Victoria Pendretti) taking the job as the new au pair for Bly Manors two resident children Flora and Miles. As Dani decides to walk into Bly Manor we are slowly introduced to the Manor itself. A creepy, old English manor house in the middle of nowhere. Although there is nothing to separate it from the countless of mansions set into the English countryside, this one still welcomes you with a shudder.
In the first episode the feeling of dread is quick to set in. Flanagan (the shows director and writer) does this with excellent work on framing the house and its gardens to feel gothic and through the children’s demeanours.
Flora (Amelie Bea Smith) is a pleasant young girl with her catchphrase of “perfectly splendid” at anything she likes. As she takes Dani on a tour it always seems that Flora isn’t quite the young girl she’s introduced as. Miles (Benjamin Ainsworth) on the other hand isn’t shy in hiding his all to adult posture and mannerisms. His forever pissed off facial expression will ensure you keep an eye on him.
We are also introduced to Hannah (T’Nia Miller) who is never really there and always caught staring off into the distance.
As Dani’s time in the Manor lengthens so do the creepy disturbances. However unlike Hill House, Bly isn’t trying to scare you at every turn of a corner, rather just creep you out. The scares are dialled right back in comparison to Hill House’s bent neck lady or Boiler Hat man for example. The kids are never set running from demons but more we are greeted by a shadowy figure lurking in the background.
The Manor, as it’s own character, forms a relationship with each resident that is unique. Whether it’s Dani unable to look at a reflection, Flora’s fascination with talking to ghosts or Mile’s shifting personalities and violence towards the residents, Bly makes sure that whether night or day the haunting is always present.
Bly Manor carries the horror in a different way than Hill House does. It’s not long before you realise that the relationships are what’s important to this story. Hannah and Owen (Rahul Kohli) in particular share a lot of chemistry and eventually so do Dani and Jamie (Amelia Eve).
One of the only struggles I found was tying in Henry’s story to Bly Manor. Henry, the child’s uncle played by Henry Thomas, deals with his own story of grief at a distance from Bly. Flanagan does his best to show us how someone’s grief can’t always be confronted and Henry’s performance is excellent but it always feels like a spin off.
Underneath all that Bly Manor has to offer is a love story, a dark, emotional love story of heartbreak. It’s biggest strength is the way that Flanagan tells the story of Bly Manor. Bringing back his time hopping from Hill House, he slowly reveals each characters actions and their reasoning. In particular Episode 5 showcases T’Nia Millers talents along with Rahul Kohli as they turn the storytelling upside down and reveal more than we’ve seen previously.
Episode 8’s black and white historic telling fills the final gaps that were left by Flanagan. The ensemble all have excellent acting throughout Bly Manor and do an excellent job to bring out the gothic tone of the original story Henry James wrote.
Although the scares are traded for emotion, punctuated by Dani’s story, the show has just as much to offer as Hill House does. It carves it’s own story not to be weighted by the lofty expectations of Hill House and shows us that horrors are as diverse as they come.
The tears shed at the end are equal to those that you’ll have hiding from the Lady of the Lake but you might feel more comfortable to watch this story unfold than you did at Hill House.
Where to Watch: Netflix
Starring: Victoria Pedretti, Bejamin Ainsworth, Amelie Bea Smith, T’Nia Miller, Rahil Kohli, Amelia Evans, HenryThomas
Genre: Horror, Drama, Thriller
Written By: Mike Flanagan
Directed By: Ciaran Foy, Mike Flanagan, Liam Gavin, Axelle Carolyn, Ben Howling, E.L.Katz & Yolana Ramke