A Gothic romance told within the confines of a manor

Published October 7, 2020, 1:33 PM

by Rom Mallick

SCREENCRUNCH: The Haunting of Bly Manor isn’t as gritty as Hill House, but it manages to be ‘perfectly splendid’

It began, as all horror stories do, not exactly in a horrifying way.

The threat is subtle, lurking within the walls of a house—in this case, like its Netflix horror precursor, in a manor located in some British suburb. Yes, British, so it was a delight to see nearly the same cast that haunted Hill House in this upcoming horror flick speaking with English accents.

The Haunting of Bly Manor, the second series from The Haunting of Hill House creators Mike Flanagan and Trevor Macy, has its scary moments but deep down it is a love story. Of sorts, that is. 

Based on tales from 19th century American author Henry James, with elements taken from the classic novella The Turn of the ScrewBly Manor is a fitting follow-up in “The Haunting” series. But it’s not entirely that scary. Maybe.

Here are some things we liked and didn’t like in The Haunting of Bly Manor.

(Warning: Some spoilers ahead. If you would prefer to venture into Bly with absolutely no clue of what you are getting yourself into, then now is your chance to turn back. If you would like to be somewhat prepared, then read on.)

A perfect casting ensemble

Nearly everyone from Hill House is here. And the first time you see them in Bly, you might be pleasantly surprised or discombobulated when you hear them speak. They all speak with impeccably English accents, well at least we think so—from Henry Thomas (who played the younger version of Hugh Crain from Hill House) as Henry Wingrave to Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Kate Siegel (siblings Lucas and Theo Crain from Hill House). The only one who plays non-English role from the previous series is Victoria Pedretti, who takes on the lead role of Dani Clayton, the American nanny hired to take care of siblings Miles and Flora Wingrave (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth and Amelie Bea Smith) who both reside at Bly Manor.

Spooky enough

For a house as big as Bly Manor, which seems bigger than Hill House, there is bound to be a lot of spookiness to go around. As far as creepy elements go, Flanagan and Macy did their utmost to keep audiences hooked and curious enough to understand what is happening, to get to the bottom of the mysteries at Bly expertly revealed in the nine episodes of this season. Hill House fans might miss the bent-neck lady, but don’t worry, there’s another lady here to haunt you in your dreams.
The Haunting of Bly Manor really is a good Gothic romance, if romance is taken to mean mystery and excitement, as it did in the world of Henry James.

Not completely explored

Although there is enough character development in the series, with just the right amount of horror liberally sprinkled throughout the nine episodes of The Haunting of Bly Manor, we could not help but notice how some elements were left unexplored. There are moments when the show introduces a seemingly important plot only to leave it unexplained. These could get audiences fixated and then disappointed as there were no attempts at clarifying what they were for. If these were meant to be mysterious, then they might have been unnecessary from the start because the show is able to wrap things up quite satisfyingly in the end. Still, it leaves us wondering what they were for.

The Haunting of Bly Manor really is a good Gothic romance, if romance is taken to mean mystery and excitement, as it did in the world of Henry James.

Our verdict: For its masterful retelling of Henry James’ stories to the beautiful camerawork that seems to have become the trademark of “The Haunting” series, and its shortcomings notwithstanding, we give The Haunting of Bly Manor3.5 out of 5.

The Haunting of Bly Manor premieres on Netflix on Oct. 9.