I’ve just finished watching The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix and I have thoughts. Having watched The Haunting of Hill House about a year and a half ago I thought I knew what to expect with Bly Manor but it had a very different feel. Ultimately, I really enjoyed Bly Manor, partially because I was surprised about how different it was from Hill House.
The ending summarises the core difference between the two shows quite nicely. Whereas Hill House is a ghost story, Bly Manor is a love story. And a pretty damn sad one at that. Whereas Hill House preys on your fear by filling each episode with jump scares, Bly Manor takes a very different approach in its storytelling. Yes, there are still ghosts. Yes, there’s still a creepy old house. But, the characters that populate the show take centre stage over the ghosts in this story.
Despite the dream hopping which made all episodes from 5 onwards a bit twisted, I found Bly Manor easier to follow than Hill House. I think it had the right amount of characters, even if there were a couple of missed opportunities. For me, Uncle Henry was a character that I wanted to learn more about, his Mr Hyde figure was a fascinating edition to the story but felt a bit disconnected to everything else going on. I wish we got to understand a little more about where, when and how his split self came into his world.
Speaking of the characters though, I really enjoyed getting to know this group of people. I found each of their stories compelling and linked in seamlessly with the show’s central themes, from Owen dealing with watching his mother slip further into her dementia to Hannah’s big secret. Also, I can’t write a review of this show without saying how amazing the cast is, especially the young cast. Flora and Miles are genuinely likeable kids and it’s heartbreaking when you see how far Peter is willing to go to manipulate them into letting him and Rebecca possess them.
It’s the possession and the idea of being tucked away into memories that was really interesting for me as a viewer. There’s something unsettling about that idea of being lost in your own head and seeing both Hannah and Peter get stuck in the same memories repeatedly was the kind of psychological torment that creates a whole new level of fear. It’s not jump scares but it’s that claustrophobic feeling of not being able to leave your own mind. It’s such an fascinating concept to explore under the umbrella of horror and I thought the show did a great job with it.
Another thing I really enjoyed about this show was the throwback episode where we got a full backstory of the principle ghost of Bly Manor, Viola, and got an understanding of why she haunts in the way she does. There is true tragedy in her story and, dodgy English accent aside, I thought it was handled brilliantly. It’s not easy to pull off kind of that stepping-away-from-the-central-action-for-an-entire-episode thing but something about Viola’s story and how it filled in the mysteries still left wide open in the story was captivating for me.
The last thing I want to talk about with this show was the ending. I have to say, the ending wasn’t my favourite thing about the show. Although I liked how we discovered that Jamie was telling an adult Flora the story of how Dani saved her life without her realising it, I did think there was going to be a bigger twist. I found myself feeling really sad for Jamie and Dani’s ending even though it seemed as though there wasn’t any other conclusion left for Dani. I guess that’s just what the show is though, a much more emotional watch than Hill House because these shows, to me, are more like cousins than siblings. Trying to replicate the success of Hill House by following the same format wouldn’t have been nearly as original as Bly Manor turned out to be and I’m glad the team behind it took this approach.
What did you think of The Haunting of Bly Manor? Let me know in the comments.