Warning: spoilers ahead.
It has been nearly two years since “The Haunting of Hill House” forced viewers into sleepless nights with visions of a bent-neck lady. On Oct. 9, Netflix released the second installment of the hit horror show, this time telling the tale of Bly Manor.
While I was extremely excited when I heard there would be a second season of “The Haunting of Hill House,” I was equally as nervous, as the show seemed almost impossible to recreate. In comparison to its predecessor, “The Haunting of Bly Manor” does not compare in regard to horror. However, its emotional storyline is enough to stand alone from the original and to keep viewers emotionally invested. After all, it is more of a love story than a ghost story.
Similarly to the first installment, “The Haunting of Bly Manor” tells the story of psychological hauntings and is loosely based on yet another classic horror novel, “The Turn of the Screw,” by Henry James. Each character introduced in the nine-episode season, living or dead, carries around some form of a guilty conscience that helps shape their overall characterization and eventual fate.
Taking place in a flashback to England in the 1980s, Bly Manor is residence to young siblings, Flora Wingrave, played by Amelie Bea Smith, and Miles Wingrave, played by Benjamin Evan Aimsworth, who lost both of their parents in a tragic accident. The manor has a sinister history of death and hauntings, something the children are fully aware of.
Original cast members such as Victoria Pedretti, Henry Thomas, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Kate Siegel and Carla Gugino have returned to tell the story of Bly Manor, this time playing different characters.
Pedretti, who formerly played Nell Crain, now portrays Danielle Clayton, an au pair hired at Bly Manor following the suicide of former caregiver, Vanessa Jessel, played by Tahirah Sharif. Thomas played Hugh Crain in the first season, and now plays Henry Wingrave, the children’s guilt-ridden uncle and absent guardian, while Jackson-Cohen, formerly Luke Crain, takes on the role of the charming yet sly Peter Quint, Henry’s assistant. Siegel, formerly Theo Crain, now portrays the demonic entity in the show, Viola Willoughby.
Gugino, who originally played Olivia Crain, is now back as the narrator of the story and one of the most emotional characters in the end.
Aside from the faceless ghosts and the children’s creepy tendencies, the series did fall short on the horror factor. I found myself more invested in the relationships in the show. From Peter Quint’s selfish love for Rebecca Jessel to the everlasting romance between Dani and Jamie, the Bly Manor gardener, to the skinny love between Hannah Grose, the housekeeper, and Owen Sharma, the cook, the show tells a plethora of haunting love stories created to reach all audiences.
In regard to the storyline, “The Haunting of Bly Manor” is as intriguing as any would expect. Similar to the first season, each episode explained the gripping backstory behind each character. While they may seem confusing in real time, the ending explanations connect all the pieces together. By the end of the series, viewers are left with few to no questions and perhaps a few tears.
The show’s ability to create a second, yet completely different, familial horror narrative that links the naive mind of a child with that of an adult is one of its most universally relatable aspects. The allusion to the first season’s idea of a “forever home” becomes evident at Bly Manor, with the children believing they will be with their deceased parents, no longer afraid, yet the adult mind knowing that it means they will have to die in order to do so.
“The Haunting of Bly Manor” should not be watched without being on constant alert, especially for the hidden ghosts in the camera’s dead space. Every single scene, action and line is equally as important in connecting the dots to the story, whether it be the doll under the wardrobe, Miles’ puppet monologue or the dirty footprints that show up throughout the house every so often.
The acting is exceptional across the board. Each actor, including children Flora and Miles, succeeds in making viewers feel every emotion from grief to fear to heartbreak. The scene when Rebecca realizes she is dead, while young Flora stares onto the scene is almost as heart-wrenching as the fate of Dani and Jamie, played by Amelia Eve.
For someone looking for a storyline exactly like “The Haunting of Hill House,” they will be thrown off as it is not a show with consistent frights. However, for those ready to embrace a completely new story with a completely different vibe, they will find “The Haunting of Bly Manor” to be “perfectly splendid.”