The Haunting of Bly Manor: A subtle change makes all the difference

Tuilei Scanlan, Layout Manager

The Haunting of Bly Manor is perfect for all ghost story fans. Photo retrieved from Twitter.com

On October 9, Mike Flanagan’s new addition to his “Haunting” series, “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” offers a whole new world of unexpected plot twists and frightening revelations.

Based on Henry James’ 1898 horror novel, “The Turn of the Screw,” this nine-episode series touches on the tragedy of the human condition and relevant social issues such as homosexuality and domestic abuse.

Unlike Flanagan’s first series, “The Haunting of Hill House,” in which the supernatural begins early on, this new work is a slow burn. Rather than using jump scares and horrifying creatures, Flanagan creates a tangled web of tragic mysteries beneath the cheery façade of Bly Manor, keeping viewers captivated in an entirely new way.

A house is more than just a building – that’s the point made by Flanagan in his 2018 series “The Haunting of Hill House.” Hugh and Olivia Crain move into the fairytale manor with their five children, intending to renovate, sell, then use the money to build their “Forever Home.” But, they soon find out the house is alive. Flanagan uses a series of flashbacks as the plot follows the lives of the children, now grown adults, who have been traumatized by the unexplainable happenings at Hill House.

Flanagan often uses sudden tragedy, a mixture of past and present, the loss of loved ones, and unanswered questions to distinguish his writing style. However, his pattern changes with a certain subtlety that turns “The Haunting of Bly Manor” into a captivating series in a way completely different from its predecessor.

“Dead doesn’t mean gone,” is the unsettling theme of “The Haunting of Bly Manor.” The audience is moved from the familiar American scene to the quiet countryside of Bly in 1898; where an excessively large manor rests eerily on a secluded plot of land with an inescapable gravity that pulls in its inhabitants. The pleasantness of the characters and the serenity of the English countryside where the story largely takes place offers viewers no reason to feel any suspicion. But there are secrets in every room, shadows around each corner, and creatures stuck in mirrors; all you have to guide you through the twists and turns is a woman’s voice.

Much like “Hill House,” an unfortunate accident throws a wrench in the lives of the living. Dani Clayton, a preppy American played by Victoria Pedretti who also starred in “Hill House,” comes to Bly Manor as the new Au pair. Viewers are slowly able to work the puzzling past of Dani’s life as Flanagan incorporates a series of flashbacks into the developing plot.

Everything is “perfectly splendid” as the viewers and Dani first arrive at the grounds of the infamous Manor. Not a single indication that trouble is on the horizon.

In “Hill House,” the children were afraid of their home, seeing and hearing things that their parents could not. In Bly Manor it is no longer the children who are afraid, but the Au pair.

There’s an oddness to Flora Wingrave (Amelie Bea Smith) and Miles Wingrave (Benjamin Ainsworth) that Dani is uncertain about. Passing their strange behavior off as a result of having lost their parents and previous governess all in a matter of months, she unknowingly misses all the warnings pointing to escape.

Flanagan’s new series, “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” is a must see for viewers interested in a thrilling ghost story.

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