THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR is the latest achievement from The Haunting of Hill House creator, Mike Flanagan, based on the supernatural stories of Henry James. The series centers around a young American nanny who travels to London and is hired to care for a set of orphans after the tragic death of their former au pair. The series stars Henry Thomas, Victoria Pedretti, Amelie Bea Smith, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Rahul Kohli, Amelia Eve, T’Nia Miller, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Kate Siegel, and Tahirah Sharif.
To best describe the plot and not reveal any spoilers, I’ll turn to the official Netflix synopsis: “Set in 1980s England, 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 nephews (Amelie Bae Smith, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) who reside at Bly Manor with the estate’s chef Owen (Rahul Kohl), 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.”
THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR is nothing short of a sweeping masterpiece. Flanagan once again brings his signature flair of stunning visuals, unnerving supernatural elements, and an emotional story to grab hold of his audience. THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR is similar in style with what we saw in The Haunting of Hill House; however, instead of directing all the episodes, Flanagan only directed one this go-round, he brought in a team of directors which featured Ciarán Foy (Sinister 2), Axelle Carolyn (Tales of Halloween), Liam Gavin (A Dark Song), Ben Howling (Cargo), and Yolanda Ramke (Cargo). And though each episode has that corresponding director’s touch, the tone and overall look stays the same throughout.
As for the visuals, the look of the series is breathtaking. Whether it’s the fairytale-like softness or the curling fog approaching the manor, each scene envelopes the viewer in a dreamy, terrifying haze. That said, the show doesn’t extend itself by trying to be too flashy with over-the-top special effects. Instead, it relies on creating a distinctive atmosphere that is both welcoming and sinister. The cinematography of James Kniest, who worked on Flanagan’s Hush, and Maxime Alexandre features spacious countryside views which let viewers know early on that Bly Manor is situated in a remote area. And those who loved the score of The Haunting of Hill House will be overjoyed to know that The Newton Brothers have returned with their signature sound reminiscent of the score from the first season of this anthology.
As for the cast, each and everyone gives a “perfectly splendid” performance. As much as I would love to dissect each actor’s performance, that’s an article for another time; but trust me when I say that no one falls short in their accomplishment for this series. Each character presents a differing personality trait that makes it easy for viewers to find relatable aspects to them. That said, there are a few standout performances that I believe deserve some extra attention. T’Nia Miller, who plays Mrs. Grose, brings about a performance that is both lovely and deeply heartbreaking. I was fascinated by her storyline as it kept me engaged and on my toes as the secrets surrounding her and her place within the manor spilled forth. Same goes for Rahul Kohl, who plays Owen, the chef of the manor, who warmed my heart with his ridiculous puns. He’s sensitive and loving but still manages to put a smile on the face of everyone around him, even while going through his own tragic storyline related to his mom. Additionally, Amelia Bea Smith and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth were terrific in their respective roles. For such young actors, I was blown away by their talent and emotional range, especially during episode Episode 3, “The Two Faces Part 1”.
THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR is much more than the newest “horror” show. It’s a stunningly orchestrated series that combines disturbing surprises with a gothic storyline centered around love and loss; as well as the way in which our memory captures the experiences we have had. There are moments that will elicit genuine chills, especially when we are introduced to the “no-face” creatures. As someone who finds dolls to be forever creepy, there were a few scenes that sent me into a tizzy because they evoked such a deep fear that I have of dolls. But the scariest part of this show has to do with the human interactions – how our flaws and our trauma can spark the way in which we act. The consequences of these actions find us hiding from what scares us or being reckless because of what’s been taken away. This series will take you on an emotional journey where you’ll be hard-pressed not to burst into tears or jump out of your seat in absolute shock.
All in all, THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR is an epic achievement. It’s a story about tragedy, grief, and heartache, but also, a reminder that those who died are truly never gone. From the moment the first episode rolls you’ll embark on a winding journey with twists and turns that’ll keep you guessing until the finale brings everything full circle. This is also a show that begs to be re-watched so as to pick up on all the clues and hidden messages lying deep beneath the surface. That said, on October 9th, your new home awaits as the doors of Bly Manor open for all who want to return home…
All 9 episodes of THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR will premiere on Netflix on October 9, 2020.