Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House (the first in The Haunting anthology series) arrived on Netflix in 2018 and, for many, it was a welcomed change of pace to the mainstream horror shows out there. Each episode was slow and considered — poetic even — the gloom creeping in on viewers like a mist. The Haunting of Bly Manor is the next instalment in our newest ghostly anthology, gracing screens last weekend. Like its predecessor, Bly Manor has its origins in the literary world, based on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw.
If you, like me, were expecting an instant continuation of the same hollow foreboding that Hill House did so well, you’d be mistaken. Instead, Flanagan throws his viewers into the busy streets of 1980’s London; the cosmopolitan bustle worlds away from the empty halls of Hill House. The tonal change is refreshing, suggesting that The Haunting isn’t going to be a predictable anthology.
It is in London where we meet Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti – one of a few reprisal cast members), an American au pair running from her past and towards something worse: Bly Manor. Despite her young age, Pedretti has astounding command over the characters she plays. T’Nia Miller offers another stand-out performance as the doting yet mysterious housekeeper, Hannah Grose. The two actors convey trauma and terror with such believability: a spectacle worth watching in itself.
And that is the very crux of the show. Trauma. Like Hill House before it, the chilling ghosts serve a greater purpose than simply scaring you half to death (though they succeed in that too). Beyond the tarp covered mirrors and dolls that move by themselves, the spectres that roam Bly Manor symbolise powerful loss for both the living and the dead.
Mainstream horror tends to run in two parties, though they’re not mutually exclusive. There’s the hardcore horror, with its gore and jump scares. Then there’s the ghost stories, the ones that crawl up your spine and stay with you awhile. The Haunting of Bly Manor sits firmly in camp two. So, if you’re a lover of a good ghost story, the next instalment in our newest spectral anthology welcomes you home.