PG Score: 7.25/10
The Haunting of Bly Manor is available on Netflix
The Haunting of Bly Manor is an endearing love story with bits of Gothic horror mixed in. Based on the works of Henry James, it follows a live-in nanny as she travels to the Bly estate to care for two orphaned children.
This is not a direct sequel to The Haunting of Hill House, which is the first entry in the franchise from creator Mike Flanagan. Akin to the standalone season structure of American Horror Story, he once again takes the helm and is joined by multiple returning cast members who play different characters this time around. The framework for the main storyline is based on the James novel, The Turn of the Screw, which was also adapted in Floria Sigismondi’s disastrous flop, The Turning. Fear not, this adaptation is lightyears better than that abomination of a film. The horror and romantic elements in The Haunting of Bly Manor intertwine nicely to help create an immersive atmosphere. Flanagan has a knack for blending drama and scares seamlessly and that talent is on full display here. The former takes most of the spotlight with slow-burn character development and poetic dialogue at the forefront of each episode. The writing is beautiful for the most part, but it occasionally grows repetitive. Some lines and even cadences are used so frequently that they verge on the edge of annoying. It is also worth noting that the first few episodes are incredibly slow at times. While they work to build up a solid foundation for what is to come, it is hard to imagine that could not be achieved in a more compelling manner.
The cast is an exceptionally talented bunch. Victoria Pedretti, Henry Thomas, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Carla Gugino, and Kate Siegel comprise the list of those returning from Hill House. All five deliver very good performances, but there is some overacting from Pedretti at times. The best performances are really found in the new faces. T’Nia Miller, Rahul Kohil, and Amelia Eve make the most of their leading roles and are a joy to watch on-screen. Miller and Kohil both flourish in their characters and are easily the standouts for the series. I would be remiss if I did not mention that The Haunting of Bly Manor is light on thrills. The setting, tone, and characters certainly have a creepy feel, but there are very few even remotely terrifying moments. Aside from occasional jump scares and cleverly-placed ghosts, the majority of all nine episodes are fear-free. Regardless of the anthology format, it is natural to compare this series to The Haunting of Hill House. While it is eclipsed by the phenomenal precedent set by the original, The Haunting of Bly Manor is still a poignant piece of Gothic romance.