THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR I 2020

Distribution: Netflix (Worldwide)

Production Company: Intrepid Pictures, Paramount Television, Amblin Television 

Studio: Netflix / Paramount

Created by: Mike Flanagan

Directed by: Mike Flanagan (201), Ciarán Foy (202/203), Liam Gavin (204/205), Yolanda Ramke & Ben Howling (206/207), Axelle Carolyn (208), E.L. Katz (209)

Starring: Victoria Pedretti, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Henry Thomas, Tahirah Sharif, T'Nia Miller, Amelia Eve, Rahul Kohli, Matthew Holness, Alex Essoe, Kate Siegel, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Amelie Bea Smith, Katie Parker

REVIEWS

Glen Weldon, NPR: "Bly Manor nails the all-important dismount, and does so in a sincere, humane and bittersweet way that directly addresses the nature, and the purpose, of grief. It's not overtly tidy or dully expositional — yet it feels, in the best way, inevitable... [Season 2] isn't as chilling as Hill House, but it is ultimately a good deal more satisfying, and it whets the appetite for any future instalments."

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Ben Travers, INDIEWIRE: "It’s not a horror show, and Netflix viewers should dissuade themselves of such presumptions, or risk missing its beautiful reflections... Bly Manor stands as an ambitious blend of genres and arrives at its ultimate point with proper gravity."

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Libby Hill, INDIEWIRE: "Horror is subjective and while Bly Manor doesn’t worry itself as much with jump scares, it does indulge in a slow-burn terror, which builds incrementally until its final moments and beyond, in which its tale leaves the viewer with such existential dread that it lingers long after the season concludes. No, Bly Manor isn’t as scary as Hill House. It’s scarier... When you think about it six weeks later, sitting in the same spot, doing the same thing, thinking the same thoughts, I promise you, you’ll be terrified."

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, THE AV CLUB: "[In Episode 6], memory-hopping makes for a fun device rife with psychological humour. Henry’s doppelgänger is genuinely terrifying, and he serves as the tour guide for Henry’s nightmarish worst memories, including the night he learned Dominic and Charlotte died... [Episode 7] spins its horror into a frightening web... Peter Quint is still very much a bad man and a selfish one at that. We know now why he was so desperate to escape his life. These things contextualise his behaviour without excusing it. Peter Quint is still a very bad man, but his selfishness and manipulations are rooted in something real. Watching Peter relive this memory with his mother endlessly makes for genuine horror... Rebecca and Peter’s relationship is a real-life horror of its own, a frightening look at the cost of codependency."

Alan Sepinwall, ROLLING STONE: "Bly Manor stands completely on its own... The sense of dread and confusion throughout the house are palpable. Much of the action takes place at night, and Flanagan, the other directors, and cinematographers Maxime Alexandre and James Kniest do well at making things clear whenever they need to be. Like with Hill House, the style is deliberately old-school and low-fi. This is not a show meant to be watched while you scroll Instagram, or you’ll miss the many disturbing things that pop into the background for a half-second or two. And many of the freakiest moments come from the simplest of effects, like an unknown woman’s hand coolly sliding into the frame without explanation while Dani is having a conversation with Flora, to place a finger on the adorable little girl’s forehead."

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Meagan Navarro, BLOODY DISGUSTING: "With this season, patience is critical. It’s when all the various threads slowly come together, when Flanagan’s reworking of the source material comes into play, that season two showcases the same level of awe and splendor that Hill House evoked... Bly Manor is a love story at its core, and all the soaring highs and heartbreaking lows that entails. Not just romantic love, either, but familial love to a lesser extent. This is Flanagan giving the Gothic Romance a modern spin while emphasising that the subgenre isn’t saccharine sweet and tidy. It’s messy, full of secrets, mystery, supernatural terror, and, above all, ruin. Sure, it’s a love story, but it’s one befitting of its place in horror."

Lindsey Romain, NERDIST: "The Haunting of Bly Manor, is a music box: a twinkling, eerie revolution that is as lovely as it is tragic. Is it a ghost story or is it a love story? What’s the difference, really?... Flanagan’s horror is the tender sort; his great big heart beats through the scarier fare. But that heart feels appropriate for Bly Manor. It’s a less dark place than Hill House. A great, good place, even. Just beware of the hallways at night."

Vinnie Mancuso, COLLIDER: "[The Haunting Of Bly Manor] is a lot of things, actually. A Gothic ghost story. A tragic romance. A rumination on the ways past traumas leave jagged scars on the present. But what The Haunting of Bly Manor is not… is scary. Nor, in the end, is it really trying to be. Hill House was also interested in grander themes, but it got to them by absolutely trashing your chance at a good night’s sleep, from its dread-filled Episode 1 escape scene to an Episode 8 jump scare that soiled pants across the globe. Meanwhile, Bly Manor is a far more subtle beast, spinning its plates for episodes at a time to set up a centuries-spanning narrative that hits like a ton of bricks when the finale finally brings it all crashing down... It certainly sticks in your brain long after it’s over because stories — like houses, like people — don’t have to horrify to be haunting."

Cheryl Eddy, GIZMODO: "Bly Manor isn’t just a new version of [The Turn Of The Screw]. It has nine episodes to dig into the lives of its fascinating, full-bodied characters, which it does with the help of some very carefully structured flashbacks, as well as intertwining its plot with threads pulled from other ghostly James tales. And, of course, it sets up a series of mysteries for the audience to latch onto while setting a mood of deep, dripping dread. As for the main antagonist, we won’t even get into any identifying details — other than to say they do indeed achieve Bent-Neck Lady levels of sheer terror."

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Dais Johnston, INVERSE: "While there are scares galore (though only one true jump-scare), at its conclusion, Bly Manor is a love story. Sometimes the love is twisted and unhealthy, sometimes it's familial, sometimes it's forbidden, but every story is about love's stubborn way of sticking around... The ending is hard-won, and it's a heartfelt tearjerker... [This] isn't your average horror series. It's something you realise isn't scary until it's three hours later when you're still contemplating your own mortality. It's also so saturated in love, found family, and joy that you don't really mind the memento mori. As long as you have the moment."

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Emma Stefansky, THRILLIST: "The Haunting of Bly Manor is barely frightening at all — but that's far from a criticism. There are plenty of ghosts in this season, more than you may think after the first few episodes, but the show spends less time on crafting its (very effective) scares, and more on exploring what force could possibly be powerful enough to turn a dead person into a ghost. Death is a tragedy; a soul unable to move on even more so... What sets Bly Manor apart from shows and movies like it is the remarkable empathy it has for its ghosts, some of which are nearly demonic in their distance from the humans they used to be, and others that are so close to the living they forget what they really are. It's hard, sometimes, for a ghost to accept that they're a ghost, profoundly cut off from the world of the living forever, which makes the ultimate realisation that much more heartbreaking."

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Andrew Webster, THE VERGE: "Bly Manor's terror is a slow-building one... It requires patience as well as faith that the show can actually deliver satisfying answers. Part of what makes this slow and deliberate build-up work is the cast. The slow pace also works because there is a satisfying payoff. The penultimate episode initially starts out like a completely separate ghost tale, one detailing the history of the manor dating back centuries. But it steadily reveals itself to be the key that unlocks the entire story. Those revelations, which come about so naturally, make up for Bly Manor’s lack of pure terror. It’s not the follow-up to Hill House that many are probably expecting. Instead of offering more of the same, it tells a different kind of ghost story. Here, secrets are more important than scares.

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Matt Patches, POLYGON: "Unlike Hill House, the new series is less horror-forward (there are only a few ghosts hiding in the background), but just as rewarding, trading jump scares for chilling encounters and unsettling revelations... It’s another creepy, stirring, yet meditative success."

Rachael Harper, SCI FI NOW: "Flanagan wastes no time in ensuring you invest your emotions in these characters and relationships before he stamps all over them, crafting a beautifully macabre story that will keep you invested throughout. Indeed, before the end of The Haunting Of Bly Manor, you’ll likely parallel Bly herself, normal – perhaps even beautiful – on the outside but deeply haunted on the inside.

Nick Caruso, TV LINE: "The Haunting of Hill House was a work of art, so I’m happy to report Bly Manor is just as effective. We follow an American nanny who moves to the English countryside to care for orphaned siblings whose last au pair suffered a mysterious death. Of course, it’s not long before things go bump in the night, but a subdued tone and fresh approach help this Turn of the Screw adaptation stand on its own feet. Cue the soul-crushing grief!". 

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Reyzando Nawara, FILM INQUIRY: "Each shot is inventive. Each scare is always more terrifying than the one that came before it. Then there’s also the sense of dread; the anxiety and quiet discomfort that keeps crescendoing from scene to scene as if we’re directly experiencing the horror that the characters are facing throughout the show... The Haunting of Bly Manor, in the end, is a bittersweet love story about haunted people which happens to take place inside a haunted house. You’ll cry. You’ll be scared. And you’ll cry for more. Mike Flanagan has done it again."

© 2020 Yolanda Ramke

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