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The Haunting of Bly Manor

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Why it’s worth your time:

Netflix’s second installment in what will likely be an ongoing “Haunting” anthology series is just as rich and captivating as the first. In both shows, the spirits of the dead are forced to linger within the confines of a creepy old mansion, stuck like mice in a glue trap, as one character puts it. Some are angry, some benevolent, but no living person who has the misfortune to encounter them comes away unscathed.

Other than some thematic overlap and several returning cast members in new roles, that’s about where the similarities end. You don’t have to have seen The Haunting of Hill House to understand what’s going on in Bly Manor, but if you have you may catch some subtle connections and references slipped in here and there. Either way, Bly Manor stands fully on its own as a heart-wrenching ghost story that has more in common with a psychological thriller than it does with modern horror. Rather than relying on gore or easy jump scares, it establishes an atmosphere of growing unease, letting the viewer’s imagination fill in the chilling details. Which can be even scarier.

The strength of Bly Manor‘s storytelling lies in the emotional resonance of the characters, each one a distinct, living, breathing person, even the ones who aren’t actually living or breathing anymore. Their fates are no less tragic than those who survive. To love someone is to be burdened with the knowledge that one day you may lose them, this series reminds us. It’s a tribute to the bravery of those who carry on.

What to expect:

Loosely based on the Henry James novella A Turn of the Screw, this all-new story is set mainly in the English countryside in 1987, though frequent detours to different times and places fill in the characters’ backstories throughout. It centers on Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti, who also played Nell in Hill House), an American teacher hired by a wealthy British businessman as an au pair for his orphaned niece and nephew. Despite his warning that their home, the stately manor of the title, has an unsavory reputation among the locals, Dani is wholly unprepared for the terrors that await her there.

Without going too far into spoiler territory, it’s safe to say that not long after her arrival Dani starts seeing things she can’t explain and becomes concerned by the children’s odd behavior. Fortunately, she has the rest of the reliable household staff — housekeeper Hannah (T’Nia Miller), chef Owen (Rahul Kohli), and gardener Jamie (Amelia Eve) — to support her. This trio of actors are new to the franchise, each one a fantastic and welcome addition. Besides Pedretti, returning cast members from Hill House‘s ensemble also include Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, and Kate Siegel.

A Turn of the Screw isn’t the only Henry James work that provides inspiration for Bly House. Bits and pieces from his other stories are woven into the narrative, creating a lush tapestry of fully formed arcs that would have made fine movies on their own. This overabundance of plot and character only adds to the emotional resonance of the series as a whole.

The takeaway:

Though it’s only had two installments so far, the “Haunting” series is shaping up to be a superb showcase for long-form supernatural storytelling. If you like your horror more gothic than gory, Bly Manor absolutely fits the bill.

Watch it with:

Anyone who enjoyed The Haunting of Hill House or might be looking for a spooky and thoughtful ghost story with all the feels. Fans won’t be let down by this worthy successor.

Worth noting:

It’s rated TV-MA, so not intended for under 17. There’s nothing racy about it, but the disturbing themes could be too much for younger viewers.

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