I found The Haunting of Hill House terrifying and brilliant in equal measure and because of that I didn’t know if my nerves could take another instalment of this series. The Haunting of Bly Manor is almost incomparable. Yes it still has shocks which make you jump; it has kids, dolls, ghosts and a creepy huge house which are supreme ingredients for a delicious cocktail of horror, but there is so much more to this. Firstly, I will say Bly Manor isn’t as scary as it’s predecessor, so if that’s the main reason you’re tuning in you may end up a little disappointed. This is a story all about love and loss. At its roots it’s a beautifully tragic love story with horror elements thrown in, which totally enhance this twisted tale.
The big scares mainly happen in the first half of the season as we follow Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti) who is hired as a nanny for two orphaned kids who reside at Bly Manor. She comes with a whole heap of baggage and those first few episodes explore the reasons for her uprooting her life in America and moving to England. I avoided mirrors for a little while thanks to Dani. The kids, Flora and Miles, are excellent little actors. Their parents death as well as their previous nanny apparently taking her own life mean that they have experienced more death than anyone their age should have. Miles especially is extremely creepy and it’s pretty clear from the get go that something is not quite right. Flora and her dolls at times give him a run for his money though and keep that anxious, scary momentum going.
Dani quickly settles into her new surroundings and becomes part of the family with the kids, Owen the charming cook (Rahul Kohli), groundskeeper Jamie (Amelia Eve) and Hannah the housekeeper (T’Nia Miller). The core cast work so well together and it’s sweet seeing how they all interact together. I must mention how fantastic I found T’Nia though. What she does with her character truly is so excellent and for me she was totally the standout throughout each episode. Dani soon becomes suspicious of the kids behaviour and begins to experience some freaky paranormal activity in her new home. She really should have just stayed in her room!
I found the element of storytelling really complimented the plot. There was a lot of backstory included throughout the nine episodes and some episodes were dedicated to telling the story of a particular character. Narrated the storyteller (Carla Gugino) made this quite seamless as she recalls a ghost story to a group of friends. Surrounding the pivotal gothic love story between Peter Quint (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and Rebecca Jessel (Tahirah Sharif) are other tales of love which are just as tangled and powerful.
Episode 5 provides a turning point where gaps are filled in and you become aware of what is actually going on. The freights and impactful moments of suspense and tension kind of die down after that which was fine because it’s from there that the story really gets going. Episode 8 is a real highlight as it told the story of Bly Manor’s version of the bent neck lady. Most interestingly it gave a perspective to ghosts that I’d never considered before. It really left me pondering on the idea and for that reason I would have to hold it up as one of the best episodes I’ve seen on television.
The Haunting of Hill House had everyone talking in 2018 and I believe Mike Flanagan has given us another big talking point with this. Instead of sticking to the same formula, what he’s done with The Haunting of Bly Manor is cleverly told a story of love amidst a disorientating setting of horror and horrific events with a cast that superbly portray characters you can connect with. In fact it’s perfectly splendid! (Sorry, I had to!)