Review: The perfectly splendid ‘Haunting of Bly Manor’

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Courtesy of: Netlix

The follow up to Netflix’s 2018 ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ might not pack as many minute-for-minute scares, but it offers a lot more.

From pandemics to Gossip Girl’ reboots, the world is scary right now; who knows what terrifying event will be next? So why not cope with the horror of 2020 with… horror?

‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’, Netflix’s follow up to 2018’s ‘The Haunting of Hill House,’ is the perfect way to deal with the hauntingly horrible events this year seems to bring.

Series’ creator Mike Flanagan’s nine episodes immerse viewers with a mix of cliffhangers and lovable characters, allowing for a total escape from reality. While Netflix is known for its binge-able content, Bly more than exceeds expectations in its addictive nature.

This should come as no surprise since Flanagan has been creating works of horror for years, from ‘Hush’ (2016) starring Hill House’s Kate Siegel to ‘Gerald’s Game’ (2017). With his fans numbering legendary horror writer Stephen King himself, he tweeted that Flanagan’s art is “great” and “close to a work of genius.”

Although it may not be the most spine-chilling horror show ever released, it is something even more significant: the Reese’s of horror shows. Not only does it have a chocolate shell coating in the form of classic horror, it has a creamy peanut butter filling made up of heartfelt characters and love stories designed to fill your hopeless romantic needs.

Bly’s gothic romance begins as Dani Clayton, a hopeful young teacher turned au pair, moves across the pond to start working at the beautiful country estate — Bly Manor — caring for two orphaned children (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth and Amelie Bea Smith). Though the estate first appears welcoming with its adorable kids and posh British accents, uneasiness finds its way home rather quickly.

Clayton starts to see people that no one else can see and the children; well, they’re orphans in a horror show. Hannah Grose (T’Nia Miller), the housekeeper, appears to be losing track of time and herself.

Jamie, the gardener, played by the enchanting Amelia Eve is … actually entirely normal: she’s funny, down to earth, and Dani’s love interest.

Together the household staff and adorable orphans form a family entirely of their own.

The story, loosely based on Henry James’ ‘The Turning of The Screw,’ follows the stand-in family as they find out the truth of the manor and all that lies inside, dead or alive.

 

The most terrifying aspect of the show may be how scary good it is, but here are five frightfully fulfilling reasons why Bly Manor should be next on the watch list:

The positive LGBTQ+ representation

Bly Manor offers a healthy portrayal of a lesbian couple and viewers the chance to feel truly seen in mainstream media.

While other shows (cough, cough, CW) appear to add LGBTQ+ characters to simply check a box, Bly’s central plot depends on this relationship’s natural development.

GLAAD reports across 857 shows, 75 recurring characters were a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Representation for the minority is at an all-time high, with numbers nearly doubling in the past five years. However, genuinely good representation continues to be a rarity.

Mike Flanagan effortlessly includes well-written LGBTQ+ characters in his shows, from Kate Siegal’s Theodora Crain to Victoria Pedretti’s Dani Clayton.

The relationship, coined “Da-mie” by fans, begins as a slow burn and is depicted responsibly and respectfully. Jamie acts as Dani’s rock and helps her understand that wanting to be who she truly is is okay.

The au pair’s feelings soon blossom for the gardener, and the rest is — well, confetti.

The hidden ghosts

The inclusion of this Where’s Waldoesque game demonstrates the attention to detail present throughout the show. There are dozens of scenes in Bly in which a ghost lurks in the corner. These hidden ghosts range from the plague doctor and his iconic mask and the little boy with the doll face to the soldier, the vicar, the lady in the attic, and more.

Viewers can find a complete list of the rest of the hidden ghosts to find here.

A great gateway into the horror genre

Mike Flanagan’s previous work, Hill House, is a truly haunted house, whereas Bly Manor is just a house that happens to be haunted.

Bly may have a few jump scares sprinkled in, but gory and cheap scares will not be found here. Every scare has a bigger purpose beyond just torturing viewers.

Think of it like this: there are two types of kids in band; band kids and kids who do band. These may sound similar, but they are worlds apart. A band kid truly embodies the stereotypes. A kid who simply does band just plays the instrument and goes home.

To a seasoned horror watcher, Bly is pretty vanilla in terms of scares, but it has the potential to create some nightmares for newbies. For someone trying to get into horror but has been too afraid to do so ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ is the perfect middle ground to start with.

The score

The collection of songs created by The Newton Brothers is hauntingly beautiful. Although the pieces may not get stuck in your head, it captures the soul of the show perfectly.

The brothers have outdone themselves with each crescendo, note, and chord that blend angelically into the next.

Just try listening to ‘Love Story‘ and ‘Withered Garlands‘ without crying.

The deeper meaning

Nearly every line has some deeper meaning, which not only displays the care the creators took but makes the show incredibly rewatchable.

In episode two, during Mile’s boarding school flashback, his Christianity teacher talks about The Demons and The Pigs story from the Bible. The main takeaway from the story is that the demons needed permission to possess another being. This is related to how ghosts at Bly need consent to possess in the form of the saying, “It’s you. It’s me. It’s us.”

Not only do the lines have a deeper meaning, the clothes, imagery, objects, and even the plants do too.

The plant Dani asks Jamie to nurse back to health in episode nine, called a calathea, represents a fresh beginning as it turns over new leaves in the dark. Similarly, Da-mie are starting a new beginning for themselves.

It is heavily encouraged to anyone who watches episode nine to Google the meaning of a “claddagh ring” afterward and rewatch the episode.