The Haunting of Bly Manor
- Brian Donaldson
- 13 October 2020
An unwieldy mess, this Netflix chillfest is lukewarm at best
With Saint Maud doing its best to resurrect the bleeding corpse of our cinemas, and Ghosts charming BBC audiences with its collection of loveable ghouls, The Haunting of Bly Manor would seem to have arrived at the ideal moment. In the run-up to Halloween, we're always on a hunt for the next big scary thing, but alongside a global pandemic that is rating very highly on the fright-o-meter, this Netflix chillfest is lukewarm at best.
A sort-of follow-up to the streaming service's 2018 hit The Haunting of Hill House (a different story but told with several of the same acting pool), Bly Manor is the location for an updated version of The Turn of the Screw while also chucking in inspirations from two other Henry James tales. The result is an unwieldy mess that takes a very simple but highly effective premise (a young governess looks after two loveable but clearly traumatised children after the death of their parents) and overly complicates matters with added ropey accents and by-numbers ghost-storytelling techniques (on the 23rd appearance of a spectre reflected in a mirror, you will have been touched by an emotion than is fatal to a scary film: abject boredom).
And as for those accents, only those close to the script will know why they insisted on saddling Oliver Jackson-Cohen (the baddie from The Invisible Man) with an awful Sick Boy-esque Scottish accent, while Henry 'Elliott from ET' Thomas gnarls his way through the uber-plummy voice that Spitting Image awarded the Duke of Edinburgh. And Carla Gugino dips in and out of channelling her inner northerner as the narrator who insists on spoiling the mood at a wedding party by retelling this 'not very short story'. These only act as temporarily amusing distractions from a sequel that might well kill this Haunting Of franchise stone dead.
Available to watch on Netflix.