As a long-time fan of Mike Flanagan, I’ve come to realize that his offerings to the horror genre are actually love letters. This couldn’t be truer of The Haunting of Bly Manor.
In 2018, Flanagan scared the bejesus out of me and most Netflix bingers when The Haunting of Hill House released. Millions sat on edge, waiting for his follow up, where he visited the world of Henry James and Bly Manor of Turn of the Screw fame. But then, something happened. People called it “boring” or “slow” or “not scary.” I couldn’t understand why they would do this – say such negative things about a show I binged in one watch.
To me, horror has always existed in everyday things. Something simple and benign one moment can become an inexplicable source of terror the next. It’s what I’ve enjoyed most out of the horror world my whole life. I never know what might scare me next.
The different variations and levels of horror are the same. One that I’m particularly fond of is the slow burn. The movie, show, or book that creeps along, leading to an unimaginable and chilling conclusion. But, to label The Haunting of Bly Manor as a slow burn would be misleading. It is in the same category, but its sheer genius defies the definition of “slow burn.”
The genius of Bly Manor lies not within jump scares or creatures or slashers. It is firmly cemented in the beauty of the show. Mike Flanagan showed us with Hill House how easily beauty and horror can intertwine. Gorgeous sets, costuming, writing, acting, and a sheer brilliance that horror fans had never before experienced.
He continues that in Bly Manor, but even more subtly. Taken at face value, one most likely sees a love story with edges of horror. I see a horror story carefully wrapped with love. Something so terrifying and horrific that it cannot exist without the abundance of love to shield us.
The other thing that Bly Manor works in so impeccably are the Easter eggs. There are so many hidden treasures for lovers of Hill House to find. Words spoken by an actor, the certain look or feel of a scene. Things that remind us that Bly Manor is quite similar to Hill House, just more sheltered by love. I believe that’s why I’m so drawn to it, despite it being a different level of scary. The horror is there, richly scattered throughout the show, but one must keep their mind open to experiencing it. They must understand how horror travels on different roads and appears under different cloaks. They must relish in the fact that jump scares are not necessary for horror to be ever present.
Flanagan gets it. He has a way with horror – molding and forming it until it’s almost unrecognizable, yet it’s there, waiting to claw at our minds and tear at our souls. Flanagan turns all his movies and shows into love letters to the genre and to his viewers. And this fan cannot wait to receive his next one.