Warning – the author of this post is feeling somewhat opinionated today.
I would sum up The Haunting of Bly Manor as a heart-wrenching story, beautifully told. Unless you are looking for yet another ‘scary’ horror flick with gory scenes, quick frights and ridiculously overused tropes like a bent-necked lady, this series is quality horror. (Yes, I saw The Haunting of Hill House, and if it weren’t for how much people keep mentioning the bent-necked lady, I wouldn’t remember a single thing about it, aside from my wish to never waste my time on it again. The book was much better, in my opinion.)
The Haunting of Bly Manor
The Haunting of Bly Manor, by Mike Flanagan, is the 27th film adaptation of the 1898 book, The Turn of the Screw (TTotS), by Henry James. It is widely considered a classic horror story, which should explain why there are so many adaptations of it. It follows a governess, or in this case, an Au Pair, who is hired to care for two orphaned children on an estate named Bly Manor. Even though The Haunting of Bly Manor is a series, it’s best to pay attention to all the details presented, as this series does a good job of following the short story rule, in that everything that happens is important. You may have noticed from previous reviews that this author enjoys that level of complication and attention to detail.
This series is considered, by many of those who track classic horror, to be either the second or third best adaptation to date. Instead of following what has become the traditional interpretation of TTotS, which began in the 1930’s and assumes that all the supernatural occurrences are figments of the governess’ imagination, this story not only presents them as real, but brings in even more, as I’ll discuss below.
While all other adaptations are based on only the one story, Bly Manor integrates several other of Henry James’ ghost stories. This was probably done to flesh the story out enough to make it into a miniseries, but it also serves to not only tell a ghost story, but explain why there are ghosts there in the first place.
Many critics feel that the extra story lines make this series unnecessarily complicated, but I firmly believe that those critics are idiots. This is no ‘Wham, Bam, Thanks for listening to my little ghost story, Mam’, this is a story about people. Living, dead, or caught somewhere in between, nearly everyone in this story has a depth of character that is generally lacking in horror movies. However, if you love ‘dead teenager movies’ and live to be kept on edge waiting for the next cheap thrill, this show is not for you. This is the kind of show that leaves you in tears, or at least, it did my entire family. I’ve seen it through three times, and now the tears start flowing from the very beginning.
While I should not assume to know the heart of the original author, I have to say that if I had written The Turn of the Screw, and Henry James’ other ghost stories, I believe I would be very pleased with this adaptation.