Haunting of Bly Manor
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Credit: Eike Schroter/Netflix

'The Haunting of Bly Manor' reviews compare slower, less scare-focused follow-up to 'Hill House'

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Oct 5, 2020, 2:41 PM EDT

The Haunting of Bly Manor is out on Friday and horror fans now have the first reviews to sift through as they look for comfort or terror from the coming anthology entry. The second season of Mike Flanagan's The Haunting of... Netflix series, which kicked off with the critically acclaimed and fan-favorite The Haunting of Hill House, is this time focused on the work of Henry James, including The Turn of the Screw.

A young nanny (Victoria Pedretti) is invited to the house in order to care for a pair of creepy wards (Amelie Bea Smith and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) and things get freaky fast. Par for the course for any genre offering scheduled to come out in October. There's plenty of returning cast members from the first time around (Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Henry Thomas, among others) and plenty of familiar thematic similarities, but ultimately this is a different season of TV — which means that it might work on a different level than its predecessor.

But let's leave that to the critics, whose reviews for The Haunting of Bly Manor can be found below:

Variety's Daniel D'Addario writes that "Flanagan did not get lucky this time," with a sophomore outing that has "a lot to recommend it but precious little in the way of cohesion." This "somewhat deflating disappointment" simply can't follow in Hill House's footsteps because it's "too rarely really scary" and "gets confounded by its own story." Doing James (and star Pedretti) dirty, the series doesn't land its adaptive material and finds its meld of stories more messy than savvy. But that doesn't mean it's not ambitious, nor that there aren't standouts: T’Nia Miller wins particular praise for her role as the housekeeper.

Over at Collider, Vinnie Mancuso calls Bly Manor "a gorgeous, sprawling wonder that I fear is going to upset a fair amount of people" in his more positive take. He also notes that Bly Manor simply isn't scary, though that's intentional by his reckoning. For those looking for jump scares and dread? Maybe not for them. For those looking for more of the emotional trauma Hill House dug into? It might be a better fit. With a slow pace that's "occasionally frustrating," the series is a slower burn drama that's less horror than something that uses horror to get its characters where it needs them. "Bly Manor might not be scary but it certainly sticks in your brain long after it’s over," Mancuso writes.

Dais Johnston, writing at Inverse, is even more positive. They call Bly Manor "vastly superior" to Hill House and ultimately "a love story." That might mean the series is a mite less scary ("only one true jumpscare" in the whole season, Johnston notes), but there's plenty of thematically juicy explorations of grief, loss, and memory - helmed by some excellent acting. If fans survive until the end, they're rewarded with a "hard-won" finale that's a "heartfelt tearjerker."

Empire's review is a bit more mixed: James Dyer gives it three stars and notes that it "takes some time to settle in." He also praises the acting, specifically of Ainsworth, but notes that jamming so many of James' stories into the same show adds "texture and variety while also crowding out some of the more subtle, psychological aspects" of the individual plots. Ultimately, the gothic romance is damned by following the excellent Hill House, though it carves out an intriguing spot of its own - and one "deftly told, with a sumptuous setting and surprises aplenty."

The Haunting of Bly Manor hits Netflix on Oct. 9.

 

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