Anybody who was hooked on 2018’s The Haunting of Hill House will be intrigued to check out Mike Flanagan’s follow-up, The Haunting of Bly Manor.
In true anthology form, there are returning cast members second time round, although they portray new characters.
The setting has also shifted, largely to the United Kingdom, to a stately country mansion in the 1980s. The story is loosely based on 1898 horror novella The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. It’s a classic setting: new governess comes to look after rich kids in a spooky house, it could even be ripped straight from the Scooby-Doo script library.
Victoria Pedretti, who featured in Hill House as Nell Crain, is now a visiting US au pair, Dani Clayton. She is tasked by Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas) with taking charge of his nephew and niece, who are both recently parentless following an accident.
But it’s not the only dark, concealed secret at play here…
In the sprawling Bly Manor there are just a few staff: housekeeper Mrs. Grose (T’Nia Miller), cook Owen (Rahul Kohli) and gardener Jamie (Amelia Eve). All run the home for young Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) and Flora (Amelie Bea Smith) who appear to have a sixth sense.
In such an elaborate setting it would seem to be the perfect job for Dani. But there’s a reason young Flora warns her, “Don’t leave your room at night.” Heck, the Enid Blyton-esque kid would be enough to scare anybody, if not for the other lurking evils…
Oliver Jackson-Cohen also returns from the first season, now playing Peter Quint, brother of Henry. Let’s just say he’s a lot more driven than his previous, tortured character.
The house is full of stories Dani will come to encounter, via dolls, talismans, a closed and forbidden wing of the house, her own visions and things that go bump in the night. Flanagan also inserts flashbacks that bring added context.
But while the casting has sought to go against type, not everything in this reimagining hangs together so well. Where Hill House was chilling in some of its ideas, much of Bly Manor is familiar turf. The shocks are lukewarm and set too far apart, turning this into a bit of a slow burn.
My memory of the predecessor was in bingeing episode after episode because the hooks were so tantalising. Three episodes into this season and I am longing for a faithful take on The Turn of the Screw as a Deborah Kerr movie.
Or a quick Scooby-Doo adventure.
The Haunting of Bly Manor airs Friday October 9 on Netflix.