Kicking off the scariest month of the year, our Halloween line-up starts with the latest instalment in the ‘Haunting’ anthology series with the much anticipated The Haunting Of Bly Manor on Netflix. The second season follows the jumpscare-heavy first season, The Haunting of Hill House, that made headlines for not only its spooky story but also its impressive cinematography.
After an au pair’s tragic death, Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas) hires a young American nanny (Victoria Pedretti) to care for his orphaned niece and nephew (Amelie Bea Smith, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) who reside at Bly Manor with the estate’s chef Owen (Rahul Kohli), groundskeeper Jamie (Amelia Eve) and housekeeper, Mrs. Grose (T’Nia Miller). But all is not as it seems at the manor, and centuries of dark secrets of love and loss are waiting to be unearthed in this chilling gothic romance. At Bly Manor, dead doesn’t mean gone.
This season’s visit to the Bly Manor is focussed on the works of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, in particular. James was a significant influence on Shirley Jackson, author of the first season’s The Haunting of Hill House, and both these novels were described by Stephen King as “the only two great novels of the supernatural in the last hundred years”.
So, what’s the verdict?
In order to enjoy this second season, you need to put the first season behind you, as it is a step towards gothic romanticism and a step away from classic horror. The Henry James world of gothic romanticism presents to the audience romance that holds buried secrets, supernatural agony and a sense of impending doom.
A lot of the tension from the first season is foregone, making way for a complicated exploration of memory, loss and grief, and taking a turn towards a soapier way of conveying the story. The way in which the series is shot is also very reminiscent of some of the big mainstream soapies, such as The Bold and the Beautiful in earlier years, with hazy, dreamy hues, emphasised even further by the eighties wardrobe.
The haunting and horror of this season lie hidden beneath layers of differing timelines, stories, characters and themes of grief and guilt. It is not a horror that causes fright and fear, its horror lies in the emotional unease and eventual introspection. At its heart, it is a love story and as with any love story, there are winners and losers.
As mentioned before, I’d recommend going into The Haunting of Bly Manor devoid of expectation. To me, the Haunting series has now established itself as a homage to the different faces of horror, rather than more simply just going out to scare audiences. It is a story that will stay with you, but not for the same reasons that the first season did.
Keen for some more horror? Try Lovecraft Country