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The Haunting of Bly Manor Delivers Spooky Horrors With Surprising Heart

Flora (Amelie Smith) and her very special dollhouse.

Flora (Amelie Smith) and her very particular dollhouse.
Photograph: Eike Schroter/Netflix

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It’s been two years since Mike Flanagan and Netflix turned basic horror novel The Haunting of Hill House right into a collection that earned raves not only for its story, characters, and creativity, but in addition for scaring the bejesus out of viewers. Can lightning strike twice? The Haunting of Bly Manor is right here to seek out out.

We gained’t be spoiling any of Bly Manor’s huge twists and divulges on this overview—we’ve seen how Netflix-spawned ghosts take their revenge, in any case—so you possibly can learn on with confidence. However no matter you do, keep in your room. Don’t go wandering round the home at evening!

That’s a request, actually extra of a fervent plea, pressed upon Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti, who performed Nell in Hill Home) on her first day working as an au pair on the stately nation mansion generally known as Bly Manor. Because it comes from eight-year-old Flora Wingrave (Amelie Smith), who lives there together with her 10-year-old brother Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth), Dani doesn’t initially take this warning too significantly. In spite of everything, Bly Manor is “a terrific good place” in response to its London-dwelling proprietor, Flora and Miles’ Uncle Henry (Henry Thomas, additionally again from Hill Home, although this time he will get to do a British accent)—in stark distinction to Hill Home, which was famously “born dangerous.” However by the point Dani arrives, Bly Manor has each a tragic current previous and a tragic distant previous weighing on it. Closely.

Dani—an outwardly chipper American whose preppy fashions are sometimes the one reminder that Bly Manor’s current is 1987—has her personal heavy troubles trailing behind her, so she’s thrilled to be beginning a brand new job whereas she tries to make a brand new begin. At Bly Manor, she meets the folks within the Wingrave household orbit who’ll assist her try this: housekeeper Hannah (T’Nia Miller), chef Owen (iZombie’s Rahul Kohli), and groundskeeper Jamie (Amelia Eve). Collection creator Flanagan has spoken about how Hill Home targeted on a standard household of brothers and sisters, whereas Bly Manor is extra about a “family” of friends, and we see how Dani is welcomed by her co-workers into their close-knit ranks. Everybody is basically good at their jobs—together with Dani, who’s nice with the children—and has a simple rapport; they’re all keen on the type of good-natured shit-talking that comes from genuinely having fun with one another’s firm.

Hannah, Miles, Owen, and Flora welcome Dani to dinner.

Hannah, Miles, Owen, and Flora welcome Dani to dinner.
Picture: Eike Schroter/Netflix

So Bly Manor feels like a fairly chill place to work, proper? Not so quick. There may be, as Dani suspects from the beginning, a “catch.” Just a few catches, really. Miles and Flora are usually charming, however their moments of moodiness and mischief—initially waved away because the habits of youngsters who’re nonetheless mourning the lack of their dad and mom to an accident overseas two years prior, in addition to the newer lack of their earlier nanny, Rebecca (Tahirah Sharif), who died at Bly—start to extend after Dani’s arrival. Quickly they begin feeling much less like infantile pranks and extra like harmful trigger for concern. Small particulars, like the way in which Flora arranges the dolls in her Bly Manor dollhouse, or the condescending manner Miles addresses his nanny as “Dani” as an alternative of “Miss Clayton,” start to tackle main significance.

For those who’ve learn Henry James’ novella The Flip of the Screw—or seen any of the opposite many earlier diversifications, particularly 1961’s The Innocents—you have already got a fairly good concept the place issues are going to go from there, although Bly Manor isn’t simply a brand new model of that story. It has nine episodes to dig into the lives of its fascinating, full-bodied characters, which it does with the assistance of some very rigorously structured flashbacks, in addition to intertwining its plot with threads pulled from different ghostly James tales. And, after all, it units up a collection of mysteries for the viewers to latch onto whereas setting a temper of deep, dripping dread. As for the principle antagonist, we gained’t even get into any figuring out particulars—aside from to say they do certainly obtain Bent-Neck Lady ranges of sheer terror.

Peter Quint (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) finds one of Flora’s very special dolls.

Peter Quint (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) finds considered one of Flora’s very particular dolls.
Photograph: Eike Schroter/Netflix

Whereas Bly Manor’s central themes do traverse a few of the identical turf coated in Hill Home (enjoyable stuff like childhood trauma and emotional agony)—and the story does characteristic many, many deaths (a number of of which don’t have anything to do with the home in any respect, aside from they have an effect on the individuals who stay and/or work there), it’s finally a love story. Flanagan has expressly said as much, and it’s additionally one thing that’s particularly identified within the dialogue. However calling Bly Manor a “love story” (and even the extra particularly foreboding “Gothic love story,” which it clearly is) is hardly simplifying it. There are various love tales contained inside its chapters—forbidden or secret love, unconditional love, passionate romantic love, and the sort of love that will get twisted into one thing darkish that feels extra like possession.

That final one is what propels the forces behind a lot of Bly Manor’s frights. It’d be powerful to drag off the present’s option to fluidly shift views and factors of view—typically replaying scenes again and again when it serves the story—if the forged wasn’t so extremely sturdy. A number of actors find yourself enjoying two variations of their character because the story progresses, and we gained’t reveal extra aside from to say that Flanagan—who additionally made Ouija: Origin of Evil and Doctor Sleep—is to be counseled for his ability in casting and directing youngsters.

Haunting vets Pedretti, Thomas, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen (who performs Henry Wingrave’s slippery valet, Peter Quint) get to do many of the showy emoting, however the performances by no means go too far excessive (as they did typically within the often maudlin Hill Home). The standouts although are T’Nia Miller, who handles her character’s dramatic heavy lifting with unbelievable subtlety, and Rahul Kohli, whose mischievous tackle Owen injects some much-needed lightness and pleasure into Bly Manor’s gloom.

Henry Thomas as the reluctant lord of Bly Manor.

Henry Thomas because the reluctant lord of Bly Manor.
Photograph: Eike Schroter/Netflix

If we didn’t care a lot about these characters—even those who do horrible issues after which proceed to be horrible—Bly Manor wouldn’t be as shifting and suspenseful as it’s all through. In most haunted home tales, Hill Home included, it’s tempting to surprise why the individuals who’re being stricken by ghosts don’t simply go away the property and by no means look again. Bly Manor makes a case for hanging round even when issues begin to go supernaturally haywire. If the folks you’re keen on are in peril, and there’s any probability in any respect that you may assist, even when it means tangling with some extraordinarily malevolent forces—why wouldn’t you?

The Haunting of Bly Manor hits Netflix on October 9.


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Cheryl Eddy on io9, shared by Kaitlyn Jakola to Gizmodo