The Haunting of Bly Manor review – the horror story understands loss at a powerful level

By Daniel Hart
Published: October 9, 2020 (Last updated: last month)
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For all its praise, direction, well-performed cast and respectfully written story, The Haunting of Bly Manor understands loss at a powerful level. It ekes through the story and it becomes the horror itself.

This review of Netflix series The Haunting of Bly Manor contains no spoilers. The horror anthological series will be released on the platform on October 9, 2020.

We recapped every episode and published additional features on this series — check out the archive. 

It’s been a year to forget but we have to feel some amount of luck that streaming services have ammo in their locker, ready to unload. The Haunting of Bly Manor has been eagerly anticipated for a long time, with Mike Flanagan teasing horror fans for months, forcing them to salivate at each skewed promo. It comes at no surprise that the next anthological adventure comes with expectations, especially after the critically acclaimed The Haunting of Hill House.

But one might be anxious at the prospect of another anthological installment of the same breadth — especially with a new cast and new characters. It’s a real test of directorial vision that bestows a creator — it is pressure, but Mike Flanagan’s recent track record is not to be underestimated.

And so, we have it — The Haunting of Bly Manor presents a story of two children needing an au pair which their distant uncle arranges. And that provides an opportunity for Dani Clayton (played by Victoria Pedretti) who requires a new lease of life — what could be fresher than an American lady fleeing to a manor in the beautiful English countryside. The horror series has all the cliches and hopefulness from the first scenes, only for the audience to be chilled by the sheer atmosphere of the manor.

The question of what the horror genre can look like is benchmarked once again. The attention to detail and the refined and purposeful shots is a creator’s dream. Even without a story, the keen eye and scene-setting of this series is something that is embraced from the first chapter — it’s horror cinematography galore. But in terms of its story, it’s flagrantly evident that time, care and effort have been put into storyboarding the entire plot — from character choices to specific time and place, the enticing horror series has managed to compel again. The Haunting of Bly Manor is an outstanding piece of work.

Netflix’s The Haunting of Bly Manor draws audiences in with its expected jump scares and platformed hauntings but the definition of what horror is in this series can be debated. The story relies on the past and present, delving into characters and their traumas — the horror is often their unwillingness to let go, feeding into their consciousness and looming over them like a grey cloud. There’s plenty of that to be explored — each character has skeletons in their closet, regardless of the hauntings happening at Bly Manor. This is a rich story, complete with plentiful subplots for audiences to drink and consume.

Special mentions have to be given to the cast who wondrously gave their best to the script — a late appearance from Kate Siegel only enhances the story and it’s an appreciated bonus. The Haunting of Bly Manor enjoys its performances and lengthy scenes of dialogue. The tension and space between characters feel important and long-lived — there’s a true understanding of the script. This is the kind of series that prides in toying with the audience to then flip the story on its sorry head in the later chapters — we become the victim of the haunting itself, desperately trying to piece together a jaded answer.

And for all its praise, direction, well-performed characters and respectfully written story, The Haunting of Bly Manor understands loss at a powerful level. It ekes through the story and it becomes the horror itself. Loss can be an evil burden of anyone, and these characters live it every single day.

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