One of the highlights for the horror genre in the past couple of years was the Netflix original The Haunting of Hill House—loosely based on the book of the same name by Shirley Jackson. It was a show that was a hit with audiences and critics alike and left everyone clamoring for more Netflix original horror. So, it was to everyone’s excitement when Netflix announced that they were going to make a sequel series that plays as an anthology—something that has become a bit of a trope in the television horror genre—and fortunately, this second entry brings all the creeps and chills of the first despite being a little more in your face this time around.
The Haunting of Bly Manor follows Dani Clayton, played by Hill House‘s Victoria Pedretti, who is a young American who has fled to Britain as something from her past haunts her. The story begins when Dani comes upon a nanny position at a countryside manor, where she is tasked with the care of two orphaned children, Flora and Miles (played by Amelie Bea Smith and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth respectively), after a tragic accident claimed the life of their previous nanny.
What made Hill House so good was its blending of character driven narrative and its sense of atmosphere. It did such an incredible job making you feel and care about each and every character while simultaneously adding chilling moments in the subtlest of ways. It was equally heartfelt and creepy which is the ultimate combination in making a memorable and terrific horror story play out on screen. The Haunting of Bly Manor is very obviously trying to repeat this formula, but it suffers a little from diminishing returns as the first series’ subtlety has been brushed aside a little in favor of more jump scares and directly uncomfortable dialogue. This led to a less developed atmosphere which was so critical to the fantastic quality of Hill House, and it has a more “hand-holdy” feel. Despite this drawback, Bly Manor never falls into the realm of poor quality and still fulfills well-earned scares throughout the season—I just wish they kept more of the DNA of the original series.
Much like the first series, this show is riddled with fantastic performances. Pedretti takes the lead role this time around and she absolutely carries the season. Other returning actors included Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Henry Thomas, Carla Gugino, and Kate Siegel and they all played their respective characters completely different than their previous and continue to show their range and talent. Many of the newcomers were fantastic as well, especially Amelia Eve, Rahul Kohli, and Tahirah Sharif who all play different members of the ground workers that help the Dani character with the kids. My only gripe with performances is the two new children actors, Smith and Ainsworth. You can never have super high expectations for child actors, but after seeing the incredible work of the child actors in The Haunting of Hill House, I was very much aggravated with the significantly lower acting skills of these two new cast members.
Overall, The Haunting of Bly Manor was a great second entry into The Haunting anthology franchise. Other than deviating from the first series’ DNA and the performances of the two child leads, I very much enjoyed this season of television and am left wishing for a third entry for next year’s Halloween season.