The Haunting of Bly Manor
- 2020 Drama/Horror
- 1 season
Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw is one of those short stories that took on a life of its own, haunting every reader just as it haunts all the characters within. This is only the latest of some pretty phenomenal adaptations of the story. The Innocents. The Nightcomers. El Libro De Piedra. The Others. These are just the ones I’ve seen. Now I kind of want to see them all!
I am going to be honest. I don’t “get” The Turn of the Screw. I never have. Like, if someone were to ask me what the novella is about, I would probably just stare at them. “It’s about a nanny in a big isolated estate taking care of creepy kids who start freaking out about ghosts” just sounds like every gothy haunted house story on earth. The story doesn’t even make sense, really. It’s THE VIBE of the thing that gets you. The horrible, terrifying web the author spins you into and never lets you out…
Bly Manor is a ten episode series, and because the James novella is so old and so thin on plot, there is a lot of time and space to develop some pretty interesting backstories on the characters. I love the ’80’s setting, and the updated inner guilt of the characters. The Turn of the Screw could be seen as a tale of neuroticism amid isolation, and the repressed sexual ambiguity of the time gave the story a fresh perspective.
Hmmm… For whatever reason, it’s kind of hard to get into reviewing this series because, like the origin story, it too is about the vibe. This is not a fast paced story at all, and although the scares are pretty terrifying, they rely on atmosphere and inner hauntings more than the flashy sort of scenes modern audiences are used to. I love the many easter eggs for all us Henry James fans, and the episode “The Romance of Certain Old Clothes” is a filmed version of his truly creepy short story by the same name. If you are familiar with it you will love this episode.
The Haunting of Bly Manor, like The Haunting of Hill House before it, is not perfect. There’s too much telling instead of showing, and one episode in particular, “The Jolly Corner”, featured a doppelganger who was trying way, WAY too hard to pull a Robert Blake in Lost Highway. I also think the ending got muddled by abandoning the fate of Miles (it differs from his ending in the novella, which I found to be the creepiest part). I guess it gave that particular story thread to the nanny. It makes sense, but, well, I prefer the evil ending. Still, The Haunting of Bly Manor a is slow, atmospheric, and a genuine gothic horror story, just like the other adaptations before it. If you are a fan of Henry James and his sort of old fashioned suspense, this is worth a watch.