Haunting of Bly Manor, The

Goodness, I Was Miles Away

Main Cast: Victoria Pedretti, T’Nia Miller

Creator: Mike Flanagan

I’m not the biggest fan of movie and TV horror in the world, but I do love a well-crafted spine chiller. That’s why I enjoyed The Haunting of Hill House so much. So many elements came together and it was obviously made with great care. That’s what had me looking forward to The Haunting of Bly Manor, and I was not disappointed.

The Haunting of Bly Manor is based, apparently quite loosely, on the novella The Turn of the Screw, written by Henry James in 1898. The limited series is the second installment in the Haunting anthology franchise begun on Netflix with Hill House. Quite a bit of the cast returns and creator Mike Flanagan brings a familiar foreboding aesthetic to the production.

Bly Manor is the story of Dani (Victoria Pedretti), a young woman from the U.S. who has traveled to England and is looking for a job. She finds one as a nanny to a pair of orphans at a large country estate. We know that nothing good ever happens to nannies at remote country homes, so it’s no surprise that the manor has a tragic past and its inhabitants many scars.

In addition to the children, Flora and Miles, Dani spends her days with Hannah (T’Nia Miller) the housekeeper, Jamie (Amelia Eve) the gardener, and Owen (Rahul Kohli) the cook. Flora (Amelie Bea) is eight years old and rather frightened of a lot of things at the manor. Miles (Benjamin Evans Ainsworth) is ten years old and often stunningly inappropriate with grown women.

So this is Dani’s world and there’s something not right. A lot of things are not right, but each is small. Together they make Bly Manor a strange but not terrifying place. We learn of the children’s parents, the first nanny, the uncle who owns the manor, and bits and pieces about the lives of the manor staff. As the oddities mount, so does the suspense, but Bly Manor is not really about jump scares. There are a few, but it’s more about the oppressive atmosphere and lingering ghosts of the past.

Bly Manor is a worthy successor to The Haunting of Hill House. It isn’t quite as dynamic as the first installment in the franchise, but it’s moody and filled with the kind of contradiction that makes you want to watch the next episode. It’s beautifully filmed and the acting, while not stellar, is solid. Victoria Pedretti and Henry Thomas are done a disservice by the story which presents them as main characters but frequently sidelines them in service of the plot. Faring far better are T’Nia Miller and Rahul Kohli (who I recognized as Ravi from iZombie). Both actors are excellent and they add substance to parts of the story that would have been slight and unsatisfying without them.

Overall, I enjoyed The Haunting of Bly Manor. It’s told as a flashback, which is risky but doesn’t have a major effect on the story itself. The story is twisty and confusing, but in a good way. The characters are generally worth rooting for, and the acting ranges from good to terrific. I look forward to finding out what direction Mike Flanagan chooses to go with the next installment.

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