Written by Maddie Bonser
Photo courtesy of Eike Schroter/Netflix
Spooky season is officially upon us; however, our beloved Halloween traditions are out the window for 2020. No dressing up in scary costumes, no trick or treating and no epic Halloween party to attend. So what better way to celebrate the haunted holiday than binge watching Netflix with lots, and I mean lotsof sweets and chocolate. Living in a Tier 3 coronavirus lockdown zone, I’ll personally be spending Halloween night on my living room sofa because I truly have no better plans (something I’ve gotten used to in recent times). So, if your October 31stsounds pretty similar to mine, why not binge watch a Netflix Original series? The Haunting of Bly Manor could be your next horror fix.
The newly added The Haunting of Bly Manor is the much-anticipated sequel to The Haunting of Hill House released in 2018, and the second instalment in ‘The Haunting’ anthology created by Mike Flanagan for Netflix. The American supernatural horror series tackles the narrative of a haunted manor in the British countryside with an American au pair as its protagonist. The plot is loosely based on Henry James’ 1898 Novella, The Turn of the Screw.
Dani Clayton played by Victoria Pedretti, familiar to many as the romantic interest ‘Love Quinn’ from Netflix series “You” makes a return to Bly Manoras the lead, after her smaller part in Hill House. The Yank has moved to London in pursuit of forgetting her past troubles and interviews for the job as a ‘live in’ nanny at Bly Manor. The action is set in 1987, and Dani is responsible for looking after Miles and Flora (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth and Amelia Bea Smith). Two adorable but at times unsettling orphaned children who have not only lost their parents but Dani Clayton’s predecessor too. Their former nanny, Rebecca Jessel (Tahirah Sharif) was found dead six months previous in the misty lake situated on the edge of Bly Manor’s grounds. Naïve Miss Clayton basically begs the orphans’ uncle Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas) to give her the job because who could pass up an opportunity to work at a creepy manor that has seen so much death? An optimistic Dani travels to the Bly countryside and meets the all seemingly normal and friendly staff who already care for the children and grounds. The charming cook Owen (Rahul Kohli), the Housekeeper Hannah Grose (T’Nia Miller) and the Gardener Jamie (Amelia Eve). Everything seems perfectly splendid, but as we could have predicted, not for much longer.
The Haunting of Bly Manor becomes very confusing during the second half of the series. The pace picks up and we flashback into the character’s pasts, finding out what Dani has been tragically struggling with, why Miles was expelled from boarding school and Henry’s affair with his now dead brother’s wife. But the flashbacks soon become supernatural hallucinations and as a viewer as I left confused as to what was or wasn’t reality. It becomes clear the hallucinations are a result of the haunted manor as Flora childishly describes her sleepwalking tendencies and own hallucinations as being “tucked away”. She mentions “the lady” and unnervingly associates her with a doll, or talisman, positioned under her chest of drawers. “She stays there”. Muddy footprints also appear, leading from the parent’s old bedroom to the garden and are discovered by Dani in the morning. The children are blamed for the mess and scolded for going on dangerous midnight walks. Yet, to the Au pair’s surprise there is another, more otherworldly culprit.
Dani Clayton, though the main protagonist of The Haunting of Bly Manor, is undoubtedly a rather annoying character. Maybe because she’s a wide-eyed American who volunteers willingly to work at a haunted manor. Maybe just because she’s American and I the viewer, is British. But also, because every naïve main character in a horror insists on doing and saying exactly what the viewer knows she shouldn’t. Flora pleads to Dani on her first night at the Manor to not leave her bed, but of course the yank goes on the hunt for a midnight snack, narrowly missing a run in with something supernatural. Surprisingly though Dani’s sexuality is subtlety communicated throughout the series, as we discover she called things off with her now deceased fiancé, due to the possibility of her being queer. The cool as a cucumber Bly Manor gardener Jamie, then becomes an unlikely love interest. No spoilers here, but the two undoubtedly fall in love (after some very awkward flirting I must add). Conveying an endearing lesbian romance, which was not only a charming element of the series to watch but amazing representation on our screens for the LGBTQ+ community.
The Haunting of Bly Manor is one series that if it weren’t Halloween, I’d most likely turn my nose up at watching it. There were many cringeworthy accents and a sort of fake ‘Britishness’ which is unfortunately an occurrence of an American series based in Britain time ago. What is more, for a horror series there was actually an underwhelming amount of jump scares, something I really didn’t expect. Nevertheless, personally I binge watched the series in a one whole day and thoroughly enjoyed it despite its not so scary quirks. There were a few twists and turns and overall, I was intrigued by the characters and how the manor itself became haunted. The Haunting of Bly Manor is ultimately your perfectly ‘binge-able’ (if that can pass for a word) series on Halloween night, but be aware that not all supernatural horrors are actually terrifying.