The Haunting of Bly Manor

The Haunting of Bly Manor ★★★½

"The wrong kind of love can fuck you up."

Two years have come and gone and it's finally time for the second round of Mike Flanagan's long-awaited group horror therapy sessions. Was the wait worth it?

The Haunting of Bly Manor kicks off with quiet intrigue and all measure of potential. But, unlike its sharply-drawn, plotted, and executed predecessor, Bly Manor loses its ghostly potency the more it goes on. Instead of exhilarating us as it ramps up to a shattering crescendo, it continually finds itself mired in the sort of glue traps its own characters muse about. The direction, writing, and performances don’t quite reach the heights of Hill House (with the significant exceptions to the latter that are Victoria Pedretti, T’Nia Miller, and Henry Thomas). That it is simply a "good" follow-up rather than a superlative one is ultimately due to characters that fail to make an impression despite being given far too much time to do so (this should’ve been five episodes long, at most).

Mike Flanagan's presence is sorely missed this time around (the filmmaker helmed every chapter of Hill House and wrote most of them whereas here he only did this once). Without Flanagan's continually precise command on sprawling story threads, this often feels weightlessly unmoored as it goes in directions that feel shockingly dull. No paths feel as patience-trying as flashbacks spent away from Pedretti's Dani. And that unevenness frustratingly begins to rear its head right around the halfway point, when it should be roaring along.

Still, all of this is handsomely made, with an ever present cathartic spirit that carries it when it threatens to sink into its much too self-assured melancholy. And the first half spent at Bly Manor gripped and spooked me enough to keep me invested until it all plays out. The sense that this was a missed opportunity, however, lingers far more than almost anything else this disconcerting tale can conjure up. That "almost" is key, though. THE key, it turns out. Because the way this tale comes together in its final chapter is deeply, deeply moving and most worthy of the century-old story on which it's built. When it strikes the right balance between pathos and chills, as it does in its final moments, it is imperfectly, hauntingly splendid.

P.S. It was fun spotting the hidden ghosts again. Reminds me of a grown-up version of the I SPY! books I used to love as a kid.
P.P.S. Question for you guys, are any of your Netflix profile icons now expired? I ask because my own has been Steve Crain since I watched Hill House and I realized that none of the characters from that show seem to be available anymore and I'm curious to see how "rare" they get :).

—🏰🧛‍♂️ Spooky Season 2020 #45 🧛‍♂️🏰—

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