It’s the spookiest time of the year so when I saw that The Haunting of Bly Manor had appeared on Netflix a couple of weeks ago it seemed like perfect timing.
American nanny, Dani (Victoria Pedretti) takes a job at the imposing Bly Manor, looking after young orphans, Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) and Flora (Amelie Bea Smith). She has been warned that the children are a bit unusual, but that’s to be expected after the death of their parents, right? The thing is there are quite a few unanswered questions… why did the children’s previous nanny, Rebecca (Tahirah Sharif) commit suicide? Where did her opportunistic boyfriend, Peter (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) disappear to? Why won’t their uncle Henry (Henry Thomas) visit the manor? What is Dani running from? And most importantly, what is lurking in the lake?
Once again Mike Flanagan does an amazing job of creating an unsettling atmosphere that creeps into your bones. There are odd things at the corner of your eye, beautifully timed, carefully curated jump scares and enough weird faceless dolls to give you nightmares for a month. The palette is grey-green, leached of life and it’s always a challenge to know which narrators of the story are reliable.
I enjoyed the concept of the characters dream travelling and also of them reliving memories to attempt to gain perspective. It fitted very well into the overall themes of living in the present, letting go of the past and of being brave enough to be and accept your authentic self. I thought there were great performances from the child actors and from Rahul Kohli and T’Nia Miller who play Bly’s chef and housekeeper. The characters were both so warm and generous that they brought both life and gravitas to the chilling moments of the show. I was less impressed with Pedretti though who came across as a bit hysterical and I am not sure what was going on with a lot of the accents.
Of course Bly is always going to be compared with its predecessor in the anthology, Hill House. It features several of the same performers as well as sharing elements of its aesthetic. While Bly is very good, it’s nowhere near as good as Hill House and I was left wanting a better narrative and a better conclusion. I would highly recommend Bly to horror fans but just don’t expect it to live up to Hill House. If you watched Bly first, definitely check out Hill House, you’ll love it!