Netflix’s latest horror series examines growth

A spooky figure with large white eyes stares forward.
Illustration by Umi Caldwell

Netflix debuted Mike Flanagan’s “The Haunting of Bly Manor” on Oct. 29, a nine-episode long saga loosely based on Henry James’ short story “The Turn of the Screw.” The series was long-awaited by fans of “The Haunting of Hill House,” the first installment of Flanagan’s spooky anthology. 

Like many horror genres, Flanagan’s particular brand of supernatural has more to do with people’s figurative ghosts and demons rather than literal ones. 

“The Haunting of Bly Manor” begins in present day, with an unnamed woman at a wedding rehearsal dinner who ends the night by telling the wedding party a presumably hours-long “ghost story.” It becomes immediately apparent that her story is a true one, and she transports her listeners to the 1980s as a young American woman named Dani Clayton, portrayed by Victoria Pedretti,  arrives in London. 

The story follows Dani as she is hired by a wealthy uncle to be a live-in governess for his young but creepy niece and nephew, who have lost both of their parents in a vacation accident. Dani seems to be running away from something in her past and Bly Manor is the perfect place to hide away. However, Dani cannot outrun the ominous man she sees in every mirror and is quickly confronted by new dark forces at her workplace. 

Flora and Miles Wingrave, the two children Dani is tasked with caring for, are troubled, to say the least. However, Dani and the three other members of Bly Manor’s staff care for these children with love and understanding no matter what. There is a sweetness to “The Haunting of Bly Manor” that is not present in “The Haunting of Hill House.” Each character is given the benefit of the doubt, is redeemable despite the terrible things they may have done and cares deeply about those around them. 

Bly Manor is a place where ghosts are trapped forever, bound by a spirit with such deep emotional pain that everything around her is just as stationary as her grief. Yet, it is also a place filled to the brim with love and perseverance wherein Dani and her coworkers are able to unpack their pain and learn from their mistakes.  

“The Haunting of Bly Manor” is less a supernatural horror series and more an unconventional love story. Rather than being trapped in the past and tortured by its demons, humans and spirits alike experience personal growth and bittersweet joy within the confines of the immortal Bly Manor.

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