Being Halloween month, the supply and demand of spooky entertainment is at its annual peak. We, as viewers of streaming television, demand to be terrified – within the safe comfortable space of our own homes, of course.
Horror, as a loose genre, ranges widely, from the supernatural to the psychological. Do you want the Ryan Murphy school of OTT blood and guts (think Ratched, American Horror Story)? Or do you prefer The Walking Dead? Maybe murderers and serial killers give you the best chills. Personally, I find real-life creepiness far superior to vampires and werewolves.
On the surface, The Haunting of Bly Manor looks as if it’s going to be a cracker of a ghost story and a suitable follow-up to the first season of what is to be an anthology series. As such, it employs several cast members from its predecessor, The Haunting of Hill House, and is limited, telling the story – not in a particularly linear way at all – with a beginning, middle and end mixed up in there.
Horror aficionados looking for jump-out-your-pants frights won’t find them here. Granted, there are ghosts and ghouls who make sudden, fast movements at the end of almost every episode – including a lady in the lake – and there are many, many weird dream sequences, as well as flashbacks to fill in the background. At times, it gets confusing, but the takeaway appears to be that every character is haunted in some way or another, and may or may not be dead themselves.
Ultimately, this is a series of love stories that transcend time and spiritual realms.
“Bly Manor stands completely on its own, offering many of the same thrills, chills, and, yes, frustrations of Hill House without requiring anyone to have watched the earlier series,” says Rolling Stone.
The first of nine episodes opens with a wedding rehearsal dinner and a version of a campfire tale, narrated by Carla Gugino; it begins in 1987 with the appointment of Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti) as au pair to two young orphaned children (disturbing in every way), who live in Bly Manor with a chef, Owen (Rohul Kohli, iZombie), and a housekeeper, Hannah (T’Nia Miller, Years and Years).
The gardener (Amelia Eve) wanders in and out. Other characters include Dani’s predecessor Rebecca (Tahira Sharif) and her boyfriend Peter (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). The story expands later with the original inhabitants of Bly Manor; this happens in the penultimate episode, so there’s lots to get through before anything is explained.
My big question is: what happened to the ghost that was haunting Dani? No spoilers…