The Haunting of Hill House made waves when it released back in 2018. The show is praised for its creepy setting, deep characters and brilliant cinematography. When you can film one entire episode (6) in a single shot, that is pretty impressive. The Haunting of Bly Manor is the follow up to the anthology series and marks the second season of the show. There’s no attachment to the original season so going into the show should provide a fresh new experience without the need to watch the first season.
First off, for those who have watched the first season, you should know The Haunting of Bly Manor is not scary by any means. Sure, the show arrives just in time for Halloween. However, the show and its 9 episodes are more suited for Valentine’s Day rather than Halloween. Its main storyline and all its underlying narratives revolve around love in some way or another. It was disappointing, to say the least. Especially given how the first season made waves with its brilliant use of horror.
I watched The Haunting of Bly Manor back in August and I still can’t stop thinking about it. There’s something mindboggling about how the show managed to creep into my thoughts. Was is the brilliant characters and the tears I shed for them throughout the show? Was it the fantastic use of a cliche “ghost story”? Perhaps it is the way the show and its characters mentally challenged my understanding of life and the afterlife? I can’t put my finger on it.
I hate romances. Let’s get that out of the way. I often find sci-fi flicks to be more believable than a tale about people falling in love and sacrificing everything they know to be together. However, The Haunting of Bly Manor was a rare (very rare) exception to this. Set in the 1980s, the season follows the story of Dani (played by Victoria Pedretti) who takes up nanny job looking after two orphaned children. One being Flora Flanagan (Amelie Bea Smith) and the other Miles Flanagan (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth). The two siblings are strange and right from the start I got the feeling that all the characters were going to follow in that theme.
Flora constantly says the words “perfectly splendid”. While Miles has this creepy unsettling personality about him. However, those are just two of the many characters that grow on you throughout the season. Hanna Grose (T’Nia Miller) is the housekeeper who never eats and is forever daydreaming. I loved how all the characters in The Haunting of Bly Manor had this sense of mystery to them. Throughout the season, I had this knot in my stomach about them all. Fearing the worst about their mysterious past and pondering their dreadful future at the same time. The show does its characters justice in every aspect. Even the ones that pop up for a few episodes. They are all deep, well-performed and leave a lasting impression.
Where The Haunting of Bly Manor falls short is in its scares. Sure, most of the time the show glued me to my TV wondering what in the world was going on. However, there was very little scares here in terms of ghosts. Hill House had us checking every shot for a silhouette of a ghost in a mirror. Bly Manor was the complete opposite which was a letdown. The direction makes sense for the show’s plot. That is to say, there are some unsettling appearances which also kept me wondering how they came to be. The faceless lady who lurks the hallways at night and the faceless boy who takes the back seat quite often throughout the show. The short answer when asked “are there jump scares and pillow-gripping moments?” No.
I do wish there was more horror to the show. Especially given how the first season set the bar for its fantastic scare moments and layered horror themes. The Haunting of Bly Manor delivers a superb story which unravels as you watch each episode. It jumps back and forth in time and slowly pieces everything together. There were moments where I cried, moments where I questioned a character’s decision but it was all worth it.
As mentioned before, The Haunting of Bly Manor is a romance and multiple characters express this throughout the season. I would be lying if I told you there weren’t moments where I did not roll my eyes. The romantic themes often become the focus of the entire episode and get in the way of enjoying the ghost story. If you enjoy watching people put love in front of everything else and believe that is the way life should be then you’ll love this.
I found enjoyment in the way the season delivers its story rather than seeing character make out every chance they got. It does become tiresome after a while. I also think the love theme prevents the show from reaching any sort of emotional height. I felt pain for those who weren’t in love and those dealing with personal inner conflict. The romance theme is also a weak approach when compared to the first season. Hill House had layers upon layers of characters and their struggles thrown at you. Bly Manor is different.
Even with its faults, there’s so much of The Haunting of Bly Manor that I still think about today. I still think about those moments that changed the entire season’s plot from what I thought was going on to what was actually happening. The magic of the season is how it forces you to invest in the characters no matter how annoying they are on screen. It is not a horror by any means but it is a great season.
The Haunting of Bly Manor premieres on Netflix this Friday 9 October 2020