With viewers left wanting more following the ending of the Netflix original series ‘The Haunting of Hill House,’ many were excited to see the same production team behind the new Netflix original series, ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’, which released Oct. 9.
While each film and show in the ‘Haunting’ universe is typically an adaptation of or inspired by Henry James’s ‘The Turn of the Screw,’ many fail to see the repetitive nature that results from using the same source material. There have been at least thirteen films and television series based on James’s work, all of which center around a family affected by severe paranormal phenomena. ‘Bly Manor’ is especially hard-pressed for originality as it it coming off another recent film adaptation, ‘The Turning’, released in January 2020
‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’, unlike both ‘Hill House’ and ‘The Turning’ is solely based in the 1980s, and struggles to justify the change in scenery. Many cast members from ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ series are back, including Victoria Pedretti, who played Nell. ‘Bly Manor’, however, is in concept a duplicate of the novella, as a governess watches over two children in what seems to be a haunted mansion.
Director Mike Flanagan keeps most of the gothic-theming and production value of ‘Hill House’ in ‘Bly Manor’, but it is not nearly as neat and easy to follow. Many scenes are confusing and overly-complicated, with changes in behavior or character developments that simply do not make sense writing-wise. Many character conversations and behaviors toward death tend to slow certain scenes down, making the suspense abruptly stop.
Though “haunting” is in the name, these stilted scenes and the overall atmosphere make ‘Bly Manor’ often dull and unremarkable. While dreary and sometimes thrilling, the psychotic, terrifying setting of Flannagan’s previous ‘Hill House’ adaptation is sorely missed.
However, the plot is hypnotic, focusing more on grief and love in a dark, jarring exposition.
Many characters in ‘Bly Manor’ are surrounded by their trauma, which allows viewers to connect well with their personalities. Through the use of monologues, many characters and their backstories are strewn throughout the whole season instead of just one episode. This is surprisingly effective, considering how often forgetful many viewers tend to be when watching a certain show periodically.
The intoxicating plot thickens as the show continues, but it definitely takes a while to settle into a comfortable, comprehensive narrative. This series, while uneventful, does allow viewers who often fear more visceral horrors to reflect on more psychological horrors instead. The trauma that surrounds many of the characters could only be described as daunting, which is why it is explored in detail. Flanagan uses our own fears against us in an effort to show how truly terrifying it is to be human.
This series allows many horror fans to contemplate why they truly enjoy a good scare. ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ allows us to see exactly what happens during paranormal phenomena while illustrating trauma like no other. The show reminds viewers that ghosts are not the haunters during horror films, but the haunted.