Like the first season, The Ghosts of Bly Manor is a rather loose interpretation of the classic literary source, but if last time it was based on the gothic horror novel by Shirley Jackson “The Ghost of the Hill House”, rightly considered one of the most terrible books about ghosts from when – or written, now Mike Flanagan was looking for inspiration in the mystical-psychological story of Henry James “The Turn of the Screw”.
Genre: drama, supernatural, horror
Creator: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Victoria Pedretti (Dani Clayton), Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Peter Quint), Amelia Eve (Jamie), Carla Gugino (older Jamie / storyteller), T’Nia Miller (Hannah), Raul Coley (Owen), Amelie B Smith (Flora Wingrave), Benjamin Evan Einsworth (Miles Wingrave), Henry Thomas (Henry Wingrave) and others.
Year of issue: 2020
As in the book, Ghosts of Bly’s Estate will deal with the fate of a young girl who is hired by a wealthy English dandy as a governess for his recently bereaved nephews. Children, along with servants, in the best traditions of the genre, live in a huge mansion, practically cut off from civilization, and their past governess committed suicide for reasons that households prefer not to remember.
It’s no secret that Flanagan knows how to create an atmosphere – the first glance at a gloomy mansion is enough to cause an irresistible desire to get as far away from it as possible, and its residents only add fuel to the fire. Smiling Flora, who has everything “absolutely gorgeous”, plays with self-made dolls that chill her skin and seems to have a whole list of things that should not be done in this house: for example, go to the lake, leave the room at night, or move the figures in the smaller copy of the estate located in her bedroom. Miles, who is unusually serious for his age, has frightening changes in behavior, during which he seems to be a completely different person, the housekeeper Hannah periodically withdraws into herself and loses touch with reality. Add to this the fact that the whole wing of the house is closed to visitors – the Wingraves used to live here, but after their mysterious death it was forbidden to enter the parents’ rooms, and Hannah strictly monitors that all of Mrs. Wingrave’s belongings remain in their places.
Dani takes root in the house and eventually becomes a full member of this peculiar family, managing to ignore the frightening environment, strange, to put it mildly, brother and sister antics and the ambiguous behavior of the rest of the family. The point is not at all that the girl has iron nerves and she is crazy about the opportunity to live in a huge English mansion, she just does not want to be left alone with the ghost of a man with burning eyes following Dani on his heels.
And then the series takes an unexpected turn. Flanagan prepared the stage for a classic horror and … turned it into a mystical love drama. “I think you were wrong at the very beginning when you said that this is a ghost story. This is not true. It’s a love story, ”says one of the heroes to the narrator in the final episode, and this phrase best describes the entire second season of The Haunting of … because here the relationship of the heroes is paid much more attention than the actual ghosts that inhabit the Bly estate.
How justified is this approach? The question is complex. The original story was not a horror story, James used the technique of an unreliable storyteller and did not give an unambiguous answer to the question of whether the governess really witnessed otherworldly phenomena or was simply not herself. This format was definitely not suitable for Flanagan, so he had to improvise. Obviously, the showrunner decided to give up self-copying and moved away from the formula that worked great last time, but he could not replace it with something equivalent.
On the one hand, the melancholic manner of storytelling was just right, and there are no complaints about the acting, the children should be noted separately: Benjamin Evan Einsworth’s facial expressions deserve praise, from how his face can change sometimes becomes uncomfortable, but the main one for me personally, the star of this show was nine-year-old Amelia B. Smith. With another, House on the hill set a certain quality bar, which Bly Manor did not manage to reach. The almost complete absence of screamers in the second season can be experienced without problems, this technique managed to set the teeth on edge back in the early 2000s, but the fact that the series does not really try to scare the viewer, concentrating more on the emotional experiences of the characters is somewhat upsetting. As well as how the “hidden ghosts” were implemented this time. One of the main features of the anthology is the constant presence of the paranormal in the frame, the viewer has not yet had time to “count” the ghost, but subconsciously realizes that there is something wrong with the picture, it causes alarm. It does not work out to cause the same sensations in Bly Manor again – the spirits are either hidden so well that they have turned into ordinary “Easter eggs” and you have to twist the contrast as much as possible to find them, or they are rather ridiculous, like a plague doctor. The main monster of the season turned out to be simply morally obsolete: a spirit wandering literally the same route in attempts to complete some unfinished business during its lifetime is too 19th century even for lovers of Gothic horror. If Flanagan planned to make the antagonist just like that, it probably shouldn’t have moved the time of action a hundred years ahead.
As a thing in itself, “The Ghosts of Bly Manor” is a good mystical thriller and certainly a more interesting interpretation of “Turn of the Screw” than the one released at the beginning of the year. The turning (we know it as “Nanny”), but it is worth starting to compare it with the House on the Hill – and it becomes a little sad, the first season of the Bly estate loses on all fronts.