Horror anthology series seem to have been on the rise in the last decade or so, the quite successful American Horror Story comes to mind among others, and Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting series is a notable addition. The first installment The Haunting of Hill House was released to Netflix in 2018 and was quite well received, both as an adaptation of the Shirley Jackson novel and as an original work. The second installment was released by the streaming service on October 9th under the title The Haunting of Bly Manor and while it contains certain notes and themes from its predecessor, it finds itself to be an altogether different approach to the ghost story narrative that the series focuses on.
Much like the first installment this season is based on another work, in this case The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. The showrunners once again put a unique spin on the story, avoiding a literal adaptation and instead using the written work as a roadmap while focusing on its themes rather than the specific events. While being unrelated to the first season in a narrative sense, Bly Manor does see the return of cast members Victoria Pedretti, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Henry Thomas, Kate Siegel, and Carla Gugino. The film also features a cameo performance from Greg Sestero for any fans of The Room that are interested. The performances are quite compelling and layered with a complex weave of emotional nuances that are often paired with highly stressful moments conveying a strong sense of dread.
Indeed, Bly Manor intensifies its storytelling with unexpected twists and an ultimately tragic ending that, I confess, left me quite depressed. The horror aspect is found not in a multitude of jump scares, but in a thematic sense of terror that is well supported by its visual motifs and perfectly arranged score. Musically the series brings back the general structure from the first season, while adding a new character to its organization and more intense “ghost themes” for the rather unsettling Lady of the Lake sequences of the show. Narratively speaking season two is more of a tragic romance than a pure horror and this only serves its potential, however many who enjoyed the chilling experience of Hill House should not look for the same in Bly Manor.
Overall, The Haunting of Bly Manor is quite a worthy follow up to The Haunting of Hill House, yet it doesn’t quite capture the sense of genuine fear and mystery that the first installment captured so well. While the performances and music capture very specific emotions and the dramatic aspect is quite compelling, to say nothing of its mostly black and white penultimate episode which gives off serious classic Universal Horror vibes, the ultimate core of it lacks the disruptive and scattering malevolence found in season one. However, if you’re looking for an intriguing ghost story with compelling characters and a bit of British posh then The Haunting of Bly Manor is perfectly splendid.
Tank’s picks of the week
Let the Right One In -2008
I Saw the Devil -2010
The Wailing -2016