Rendez-View: The Haunting of Bly Manor Review
Written by: Marcus Munoz
Tucked Away in a Dream and a Nightmare: The Haunting of Bly Manor is absolutely…. Splendid
Welcome to Bly
Perchance you stumble across this haunted happening, you’ll find a myriad of stories to be told. From the horrors of love to the bliss of destruction - Bly Manor offers more than just your simple scary story - it offers the chance to be immersed in love's most tragic journey.
Released on October 9th, 2020 - The Haunting of Bly Manor follows the breakout success of the former release, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Inspired by the 1898 horror novella Turn of the Screw, The Haunting of Bly Manor reimagines the story in a modern lens, highlighting the fears that dominate our future, and how an old grudge can destroy the potential for happiness. But most surprising of all is that this story is not your conventional horror, but rather a love story - a slow burn if you will.
Victoria Pedretti is a force to be reckoned with. Her portrayal of the cautious, strong and yet nurturing Danielle provides a distinct juxtaposition to the other characters in the show that are often depicted as either harsh or aloof. I found similar characteristics from her role as Dani to her past portrayal as Nell, however her conviction and engaging stage presence in nearly every scene showcases how talented and versatile she is. What truly hooked me (though rather early) was the interview scene between her and co-star Henry Thomas - the high caliber acting and dialogue from both parties proved to be immensely impactful on how the story would play out. By the end, I was disappointed to see her character die at the hands of the shows running themes of love and fear - but I truly saw no other way for her to go. I would be surprised if Pedretti isn’t recognized in some way come award season.
Mrs. Hannah Grose
One of the biggest criticisms from The Haunting of Hill House (aside from the ending) was the lack of diversity in the show's cast. Especially for a book that was written in recent years, fans expected more from the Netflix adaptation. With that said, Netflix producers took that advice and cast T’Nia Miller as the mysterious and pious Mrs. Hannah Grose. I suppose Miller’s character - beyond the actual ghosts in the season - was the most haunting of them all. After her death early in the season (discovered near the end), Hannah falls deeper into a trance-like state of mind, losing herself to her own thoughts and memories. This eventually leads up to her realization that she is dead after finding her body in the nearby well. Though traumatic at first, she accepts her demise and is comforted by the knowledge that she will be at peace regardless (poor Owen). I’m hoping to see her again in the 3rd iteration of “The Haunting of…” (which why wouldn’t there be a third), perhaps in a more dynamic role that exemplifies her versatile acting capabilities.
Flora & Miles
A devilish duo to say the least. Flora is a sweet innocent young girl trying to protect her loved ones from the horrors that creep in at night, to her brother Miles, a boy with the “devil on his back” and a desire to save his friend. Truly, one could not succeed without the other. The young actors' chemistry is undeniable as brother and sister. Benjamin Evan Ainsworth’s performance during the story time bit in episode 3 had me shocked at how striking he was - I was honestly beyond creeped out at that point. Though heavily manipulated by Peter Quint, I felt as though Miles stood on his own as a multi faceted and standout character within a cast of “heavy hitters”.
It’s not often film, much less television allows for enough representation through the characters and their relationships with one another. On many occasions, it is the privileged male characters that are given the most screen time, dialogue and standout scenes - that is not the case in The Haunting of Bly Manor. Though the performances of Rahul Kohli, Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Henry Thomas were astounding, in actuality their characters were supporting in nature, versus the focal point of the show. Jackson-Cohen’s Peter Quint did have a strong storyline alongside actress Tahirah Sharif (Rebbeca), but not once overshadowed her - their chemistry played well to their character story arches.
Additionally, the cast (as mentioned earlier) was much more diverse this time around, with significance placed on each of the characters portrayed. From the subtle romance between Owen and Hannah, to the confidently depicted queer relationship of Danielle and Jaime - the show had at last recognized their previous missteps and worked hard to rectify them.
With such an immersed character like Owen, you can imagine how disappointed I was when the show did not allocate a dedicated episode for his backstory. I suppose to some degree they tied in a bit more scenes during Hannah’s episode, though I feel that more could have been done. The show placed a relative amount of significance on his character, but lacked the screen time to truly flesh out his backstory enough to make an impact during the climax of the season.
Love vs. Hate
Love to hate them and hate to love them - this was my perception across all the love stories featured in Bly Manor. There was this strong sense of longing from all the characters shown, however the show missed the mark on integrating the believable passion needed to make the relationships feel ‘real’. Oftentimes the intimate interactions with the various pairs were lackluster. I had hoped for a story so heavily centered on love, that each relationship featured in the show would have gone in deeper - or at least shown more expression. Dani/Jaime and Peter/Rebecca were the stories given the most detail behind why their love could never be, but beyond the proposal scene or the sacrifice of Rebecca, there wasn’t enough undying love to keep me invested. I will say however, the final few scenes with an older Jaime speaking to the bride - had me in tears. I felt as though there was a stronger conviction in dialogue between the two than all the relationships combined.
I won’t lie, this story was extremely heartbreaking - and at times, difficult to watch. Beyond the horror aspects of the show, Bly Manor tore down every preconception I had of what it could be. What I expected was a lot of what was shown in The Haunting of Hill House. What I neglected to remember is that both stories are very different in that the thematic choice of love and fear can be experienced in a multitude of ways. No, The Haunting of Bly Manor wasn’t your typical horror/jump-scare series, but I do believe that it provided something more, something beyond the confines of what we understand as horror today. Clearly, not every ghost story needs to be overtly terrifying, and not every love story needs to have a happy ending.