Story: Early twenty-something Dani leaves America for England in the mid-80s. She gets hired as a nanny to two young children in the gorgeous but kinda spooky Bly Manor, and soon makes friends with the few other folks working at the home. But there’s more than living things at Bly Manor. Many, many more things. Hey, who’s muddy footprints are these?
Scares: Gothic house spookiness, and some jumps.
Splat factor: Barely anything, though there are ghosts and dead bodies all over the place.
Closing scene “shocker”?: Nope. The opposite, in fact. I got the warm fuzzies.
Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul)?: Based on The Turning of the Screw by Henry James, though the series does take welcome liberties.
Trick or Treat?: This is Netflix’s second foray into “Haunting Of” ghost stories, written by horror maestro Mike Flanagan (and directed by a group of folks this go-’round.) While Bly is definitely not as all-out scary as Hill House, it more than makes up for it in Gothic chills and bittersweet connections between many of the characters. Hey; each of these stories has a different vibe in their respective books, so it’s nice to see that they didn’t try to force Bly into the Hill House mold.
Bly takes a bit to really get going, with some scenes – and episodes – feeling like a way to stall the good stuff. But by the halfway point of the series, I couldn’t stop watching, thanks to subplots that fleshed out the characters and an overall history of the house that I absolutely needed to get to the bottom of. Sure, Henry Thomas’s English accent is Eaton College turned to 11 as Uncle Henry, and I couldn’t stop my giggles. Still, Thomas inhabits his role so completely I’ll let his enunciation slide.
As Dani’s young charges, Amelie Bea Smith and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth swing from creepy to sweet almost effortlessly. But my favorite character is gardener Jamie, played by Amelia Eve. Jamie has a studied carelessness about her that tugged at my heart throughout the series, as if she was daring others to care about her. It absolutely pulled me in, and the way Eve found the heart of that character really moved me.
The costuming is so 80s it hurts; not the stereotypical clothing, but stuff you’d actually see real people wearing back then. And the set design is equal parts Creepy Ass House and place people would actually live in, a nice trick.
As with Hill House before it, Flanagan et al. have created a haunting, bittersweet, spooky modern spin on a classic story.
Score: 4 out of 5 pumpkins.