Over the weekend, the follow-up to horror darling The Haunting of Hill House arrived. The Haunting of Bly Manor is the newest installment in the anthology series by creator Mike Flanagan. With the first season loosely based on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel of the same name, the second draws its story from another classic horror novel, The Turn of the Screw (1898) by Henry James. As a highly anticipated release, Bly Manor proves it is a worthy, and frightening, next chapter to “The Haunting“.
In 2007, a woman (Carla Gugino) begins to tell a story of an au pair in 1980s London. We are transported to that time where we meet Dani (Victoria Pedretti), an American, looking to take a job as a live-in nanny. She interviews with a posh businessman named Henry (Henry Thomas), who is seeking a caretaker for his young niece and nephew, after their parents death two years prior.
On her first day, she is picked up by Owen (Rahul Kohli), the house chef and sometimes-chauffeur for the family. As they pull up to the palatial estate of Bly Manor, Dani is amazed by its beauty. She quickly meets the children, Flora and Miles, and begins her duties as their new au pair.
Aside from Owen, there is also Hannah (T’Nia Miller) the housekeeper, and Jamie (Amelia Eve) the handy-woman; who have been with the family since before the parents death. The kids are rather sweet, but exhibit some odd behavior from time to time, which is easy to dismiss due to their loss. But Dani soon begins to see strange apparitions, as the mysteries of Bly Manor – and her past – begin to unravel.
To this day, The Haunting of Hill House is one of my favorite pieces of television. The entire season is absolute perfection without a single weak point. Flanagan really created a masterpiece in storytelling within the horror genre, making something truly terrifying, but emotionally driven by wonderfully developed characters. By the end of the first season, you were attached to the family – and the second season is no different.
Much like the first season, Bly Manor, both the house and tone of the season, has this beautiful gothic exterior that just oozes a sense of unease, as the ideal haunted house should. The set design is again something otherworldly, as the estate develops this persona of its own – the main character of both seasons is really the house. Its creepy corridors and mysterious history builds upon the story on an almost subconscious level to the viewer.
One of my favorite aspects of the first season was that it was truly frightening, in terms of actual scares. Throughout the season, we had hidden ghosts throughout, jump scares, and horrifying ghouls haunting the family in each episode. Don’t expect that same level of terrors in this season – but that’s not a bad thing.
This season plays up its moody atmosphere while building tension for the viewer. It’s focused on unraveling the mystery of Bly Manor and building beautiful character stories, alongside more subtle scares. So while I don’t think the first season is for the faint of heart (there’s a scene in a car that I’m still scarred by), this season is definitely more manageable for the easily scared. But they should watch the first season anyways because it is exceptional television.
Another fun thing about the season is that we do see familiar faces, in some of the actors who were also in the first. Obviously playing new characters thanks to its anthology format, but it’s great to see Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Pedretti get some more screen time this round. And the last minute surprise that Gugino was returning to play The Storyteller made me even more excited to watch.
The Haunting of Bly Manor is another knockout for Flanagan and team. They just continue to create such captivating stories, with each episode leaving you in suspense, eager to click onto the next. Both installments so far have had such unexpected emotional storylines that by the end, you are just sat with complicated feelings of sadness and joy. It’s the perfect series for this month and I cannot wait to see what they create for the third chapter of this entrancing series.
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