“The Haunting of Bly Manor,” turns horror on its head

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McKenna Slaughter, Staff Writer

In 2020, it seems only fitting that even horror shows would end up more tragic than spooky. The second season of “The Haunting of Hill House,” “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” released this October. Originally believed to be a spiritual successor to the first season, “The Haunting of Bly Manor” instead delivered a somber and tense story with both horror and tragedy around every corner. 

Centering around the somewhat basic idea of a woman moving into a manor to take care of a man’s two children, “The Haunting of Bly Manor” twists the trope into something completely new in story and execution. The show’s tone is heavily influenced by popular shows such as “American Horror Story,” but strips away the excessive gore to place a greater focus on the mystery, horror and characters. This creates a more somber, less shock-based story. Consequently, the focus can be drawn where the showrunners want it to – humanity and loss, and how people are affected by it.

The “Haunting of Bly Manor” avoids cheap scares, instead opting to create a season-long sense of rising tension and discomfort in viewers. This creates a genuine curiosity in the result of the story and the fate of each of the main characters. The dialogue is stilted enough to remind you that something is wrong, yet organic enough that it doesn’t detract from the viewing experience. The cinematography and set design also bring an ethereal and uncomfortable sense of claustrophobia to certain scenes and an isolating feeling of distance in others.

“The Haunting of Bly Manor” gives the “creepy kids” more depth and life, as well as more power over their situation. This take is refreshing and opens up the possibility for greater development of this concept. The show also makes a few strong attempts at representation – placing actors and actresses such as T’Nia Miller, Tahirah Sharifa and Rahul Kohli in the leading cast.

However, the film is not exempt from visual issues. The FX looks occasionally cartoonish and is poorly done, taking the viewer out of the story. This is a consistent issue with Netflix-sponsored shows, however, and is not entirely scene-ruining where it arises. 

“The Haunting of Bly Manor” makes some bold changes to the expected haunted house story. It takes a closer look at the heartbreak behind horrific situations. This creates a far more somber story with slowly rising tensions, but a welcome twist on viewer expectations. This is a fitting story for the year, taking time to reflect and let go of grief, as opposed to just holding onto the pain until it destroys.