Is our 'The Haunting of Bly Manor' review as glowing as you would hope? Let's find out... *THIS IS A SPOILER-FREE REVIEW*
So. Here we have it. The time has come. Two years after the release of Netflix's surprise hit 'The Haunting of Hill House' comes creator Mike Flanagan's follow-up to Netflix's newest horror anthology series. While series one was based on Shirley Jackson's gothic novel from 1959, 'The Haunting of Bly Manor' is inspired by the works of Henry James, primarily his horror novella from 1998, 'The Turn of the Screw'. The short story sees a young governess be hired to look after a man's nephew and niece, following the untimely death of their parents, and serves as the starting point for the series.
American nanny Dani (Victoria Pedretti) is hired by the rich but alcoholic uncle Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas) to look after the two young children in their sprawling manor, a job she is desperate to have. Upon securing the role and making the journey out into the English countryside, Dani meets the children, 10-year-old Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) and eight-year-old Flora (Amelie Bea Smith), as well as the other employees of the Wingrave estate - cook Owen (Rahul Kohli), gardener Jamie (Amelia Eve), and housekeeper Hannah (T'Nia Miller). Of course, not everything in this manner is what it seems, as Dani soon discovers.
First off, let us just say - this is not the horror series that you were expecting. We already know that fans of 'Hill House' will be more than a little disappointed with 'Bly Manor', mostly because the scares aren't present as much as they'd hoped. But, let us plead this series' case, because this is a unique horror story that deserves its own set of praise. When watching then nine episodes on offer, it's best to disregard the high expectations that come from being the follow-up to 'Hill House'.
Yes, there are many many chilling moments filtered throughout the series - and a handful of hair-raising moments - but an all-out horror is not what 'Bly Manor' is trying to be. A far more superior storyline turns the series into a more slower-moving affair, as we learn the backstory of each of the characters one episode at a time. Why is Dani so afraid of mirrors? Why is 10-year-old Miles so hella creepy? And why are so many of the characters drawn to the lake on the estate? All of these questions will be answered - just give the series room to breathe.
This is a horror story with plenty of heart, with a number of love stories becoming the primary focus throughout. And although this might not be what viewers were expecting, that doesn't mean it is not as entertaining as it could have been. In fact, the series will have you guessing right up until the very end, as you attempt to figure out what is occurring to each of the characters. We won't spoil what happens, but the theory of repetition and facing one's demons is an important factor in the storyline.
All in all, those expecting the same amount of jump-scares and all-round horror invitation this time around might be left frustrated here. However, as the series has so much weight on its shoulders, serving as the follow-up to 'The Haunting of Hill House', there is no way that it could compete with its predecessor. Both series are polar opposites of each other in terms of how a horror story can be told, with 'Bly Manor' being much more grounded in reality, and having a much better storyline because of it. Just think of all of the far-fetched horrors you've watched over the years, and this will triumph when compared to most of them.
There is so much heart on show here, which ultimately might not be to everyone's liking. This softer, more wholesome side may leave some fans, who were expecting a horror-filled riot from beginning to end, feeling jaded. Still, 'Bly Manor' is still a solid watch, even if it is light on the scares (but remember to always keep an eye on the background).
'The Haunting of Bly Manor' arrives on Netflix Friday, October 9.