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Bly Manor is truly haunting

PHOTO PROVIDED Victoria Pedretti, Benjamin Evans Ainsworth and Amelie Bea Smith star as au pair Dani Clayton and siblings Miles and Flora Wingrave in “The Haunting of Bly Manor.”

I’m on a Netflix horror/slasher genre kick so it’s not surprise that my review this week would be of “The Haunting of Bly Manor.” The show, created by Mike Flanagan, is the second in an anthology series. For anyone who is paying close attention to my reviews (all one of you) I reviewed its predecessor — “The Haunting of Hill House” — late last year.

“The Haunting of Bly Manor” was released in 2020 (let’s be honest, that year felt like ten so this review is valid in my eyes) by Netflix and sees multiple actors from Hill House return as a new cast of characters.

The 9 episode series centers around Bly Manor, a haunting mansion in the United Kingdom during the 1980s. The series sets the stage with a woman (Carla Gugino) telling a ghost story to a young bride and groom and their guests following a rehearsal dinner.

American school teacher Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti) finds herself employed by Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas) who tasks her with becoming the au pair for his niece and nephew at Bly Manor.

The children’s parents were killed when their plane crashed on a trip to India. It’s clear that Henry is haunted by the death of his brother and wife, something that’s delved into later in the series.

At the manor Dani is introduced to the cook Owen (Rahul Kholi), house keeper Hannah (T’Nia Miller) and siblings Miles (Benjamin Evans Ainsworth) and Flora (Amelie Bea Smith). Later she meets the gardner, Jamie (Amelia Eve).

Dani has demons of her own, things she’s running from back in America, but she’ll soon learn something similar is walking the halls of Bly Manor.

The children can sporadic, Miles often acting older than he is, and Flora is insistent she never leave her room at night. And much of it has to do with the former au pair Rebecca (Tahirah Sharif) — who allegedly killed herself in the lake near the property — and Henry’s previous assistant Peter Quint (Oliver Jackson-Cohen).

Looming over the entire story is the lady of the lake and her origins. Is she real? Or is she a figment of the children’s imaginations?

“The Haunting of Bly Manor” doesn’t rely as much on jump scares like its predecessor. Instead, an unsettling air hangs over the entire series, with the fear factor revving up near its climax.

Pedretti definitely carries the series. It’s no surprise given just how stellar her performance was in Hill House. And in typical fashion for her, I end up crying by the end of it all.

Dani Clayton is clearly a woman with her own demons, haunted by a specific person and moment from her past. But she isn’t timid throughout.

It’s pretty clear from the start that the au pair has a fire in her… she’s just got some trauma from her past to deal with too.

Kholi and Miller provide a great support role and Eve opposite Pedretti is immaculate in my opinion.

Side note: Hannah and Owen’s sub-plot is truly heartbreaking. So it Peter and Rebecca’s… you know what? This whole series can be more sad than scared. I really seem to be drawn to parts of the horror genre that make me feel more than is necessary.

I think though that’s what I really enjoy. It’s interesting to offer up more information regarding characters to allow more opportunity to analyze them and understand their motives and personalities. Even Henry’s backstory is intriguing, explaining why he clings to liquor and work and avoids the manor like a plague.

“The Haunting of Bly Manor” is based on the same story as Hill House — The Turn of the Screw by Henry James — but also takes from other stories James wrote.

I would truly describe this series as “haunting”, even more so than “The Haunting of Hill House.” It may due to the story line, the music choices, the setting or a combination of all three. Regardless of the reason, it has a completely different and enjoyable feel compared to the previous series, proving that Flanagan has more than a few tricks up his sleeve.

It’s unfortunate he has discontinued The Haunting anthologies, I’d have loved to see where he went next with it. However, he does have a new series “Black Mass” premiering soon on Netflix, I’m certain I’ll take a look.

“The Haunting of Bly Manor” is rated TV-MA and is available exclusively on Netflix. Maybe I’ll break out of this niche drama next time… we’ll see.

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Laura Jameson is a staff reporter for The Express.

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