Ghost stories are great when you have such a brilliant mind as Henry James‘ to write them. The Turn of the Screw is a classic because it’s an evergreen psychological narrative. The film The Innocents was released 60 years ago and yet it is still the best adaptation of the book. Netflix’s The Haunting of Bly Manor is the latest try to rewrite James’ classic.
Bly Manor belongs to the franchise The Haunting, which started in 2018 with the successful adaptation of The Haunting of the Mansion on The Hill. It brings the story from 1898 to the 1980s with pretty much the same cast from Mansion on the Hill. It’s time to mention that are spoilers ahead.
The Haunting of Bly Manor was one of the top Google Trends topics in 2020, and it’s fun, although it’s full of cliches and occasionally tacky. The three first episodes are very good and aligned with the original story. The few liberties are quite ok, so it gives you hope.
The excellent Victoria Pedretti captions the emotional instability that her role demands and is so essential to the plot. In fact, it’s an advantage over The Innocents as Deborah Kerr’s seniority weakens a lot of the credibility of the character being gullible.
Also, your actors Amelie Bea Smith (Flora) and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth (Miles) are excellent. Flora and Miles SPOILER ALERT, need to have equal innocence and malice to make us question whether it’s them or they are possessed. Their acting gives the story credibility. And the soundtrack, God, by The Newton Brothers recovers the haunting song O Willow Waly as well as brings new music.
Not all goes well, unfortunately. When the series detaches itself from the book it loses its strength. Bringing elements as the Lady of the Lake is not necessary. In Henry James’s story her presence and explanation is a huge surprise, but in Bly Manor is silly and rather complicated. It’s a shame as there is a lot that is good until then.
If you haven’t yet, try to read the book. And to see the 1961’s adaptation so you can fully enjoy a great horror story told by the best.