The Haunting of Bly Manor – Mike Flanagan Reimagines a Classic Ghost Story Once Again

It Began at Hill House

I didn’t think it would work. Back in 2018 when I first heard that Netflix was turning the Shirley Jackson classic The Haunting of Hill House into a series, I feared the worst. It was to be a “reimagining.”   I turned to the normal arguments. Why mess with the originals?  The original is always the best.  And what is this “reimagining” business; probably something to do with pointless gore and unnecessary jump scares.  Certainly the worst came true back in 1999 with the remake of the original film for which the book is based on. The Haunting 1999 Vs. The Haunting 1963 – anyone with a modicum of taste would say that it is no contest; the film from 1963 is far superior. And this was another reason for me to have low expectations. They already tried to ruin the legacy of the film with that horrendous remake, so what’s to stop them from committing a similar atrocity.

How wrong I was!

As it turns out, Director Mike Flanagan has got a great imagination. So when he reimagined the story, the “imagery” (from “image”, the root word in imagination or “reimagination”) that came forth onto the screen was stunning, chilling, thoughtful and downright creepy. I’m talking about middle-of-the-night, lights-not-working, thunder storm creepy. Now he’s at it again, reimagining yet another classic ghost story.  He’s taking Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw and turning it into The Haunting of Bly Manor.  Is it as good as his version of The Haunting of Hill House? Gosh I don’t know, I’m only three episodes into this nine-part series. Except for several Easter eggs and the usage of the same character names, The Haunting of Hill House Netflix series is a vastly different story when compared to Shirley Jackson’s tale. For a brief description of the differences, see this article: The Haunting of Hill House – The Netflix Series – What it is and What it Isn’t. (And it’s still available on Netflix if you wish to see it. However such a viewing is not required in order to enjoy The Haunting of Bly Manor. The stories have nothing to do with each other.) So I was surprised that The Haunting of Bly Manor follows the same plot points as James’ tale. At least it does for the first three episodes.

(Articles I wrote for further reading:

Review of the Haunting of Hill House/ The Haunting: Book Vs. Movie

The Haunting 1963 Vs The Haunting 1999 – Which Film Wins? )

The Classic Henry James Story

Here be the similarities. The classic novella The Turn of the Screw begins at a party where guests are telling ghost stories. One lady relays a tale, and that tale is the main story of the book. The story is about an au pair who cares for two charming children at a country estate. The parents of the children, young Flora and Miles, died tragically. The children are simply delightful; very bright and well refined. But there is something “haunted” about them. The former caretaker had a scandalous affair with the former butler. Sometimes they coupled right in front of the children. Now the pair are missing or dead and it seems as if the children are taking on the personality traits of these former members of the household staff. The book leaves open the possibility that that the new au pair is simply projecting her own fears and insecurities about sexuality onto the children and they are not really haunted at all. In the series, the au pair sees a dark phantom following her inside the reflection of mirrors. The phantom also emerges when she is confronted with something sexual.  So she is most certainly bringing her own baggage to this dark situation.

Read my article Review of The Turn of the Screw (Book) and The Innocents (Film)

Trying to Find that Damned Screwdriver

The “turn of the screw” is an expression that means “the heightening of tension”.  To turn the screw is to create suspense. I’ll say this, the first few episodes of the series seem to be all about finding that damned screwdriver! In other words, the series begins slowly. Real slowly. As with Flanagan’s former series The Haunting of Hill House, there are many characters that are not present in the book. Along with these characters come the backstories.  So far there hasn’t been much “haunting” going on in Bly Manor after three episodes.  With the “Hill House” series, hauntings are there in the backstories. Not so much with “Bly Manor.”  I wish the story was paced differently.  It seems as of Flanagan is trying to get all the backstories out of the way before he lets the ghosts in. Kind of like a classic rock band with a crappy new album that goes on tour; the band will suffer the audience with material from the new album before it rocks on to the songs the people really want to hear.  Also, the characters go into these monologues and talk on and on and on.  Finally, if I have to hear little Flora speak the word “splendid” in her little pretentious voice one more time, I’ll scream!!

Yeah it’s tough setting up the screw driver.  I have read comments from people that have watched this series in its entirety and they say it starts slow but picks up and in the end it’s soooooo great. So I will continue on.  Don’t get me wrong, I like what I have seen so far. It’s just tedious at time. Tell ya what, I’m going to watch two more episodes and then continue this article? Okay, take a rest from reading while I resume watching.

Cheely’s watching episode 4 and 5…….Please wait…..

Cheely’s watching episode 4 and 5…….Please wait…..

Cheely’s watching episode 4 and 5…….Please wait…..

Cheely’s watching episode 4 and 5…….Please wait…..

The Screw Turns

Wow! A lot happens in episode 4 and 5!  Finally the screw is turning. Suspense, suspense and mind-fuckery! I don’t know what is real and what is an illusion. Usher in some hauntings!  It’s a whole new ballgame now. Ghosts might be lurking where you least suspect. I can’t wait for episode 6, 7, 8 and 9!

And here you were worried it wouldn’t be good. All you had to do was wait!

What’s next for Flanagan in The Haunting of….Series?

I don’t know the answer to this header question, but I sure hope it will be The Haunting of The House of Usher.  Please make this be so, Flanagan! Please?  I love the Edgar Allan Poe tale The Fall of the House of Usher and there is so many ways to reimagine this tale in good creepy ways.  Brother Vs. Sister, two siblings with different forms of madness, pitted against each other, in a house that is doomed to come apart down the middle and bring an end to a family’s lineage. Think about it, Mike, I know you are reading this article. (Ha HA Ha HA HA! I wish he was!)

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