I don’t handle horror well. I handle it so poorly, in fact, that I usually go out of my way to never watch the genre as a whole. But, every once in a while, I’ll trust a friend’s recommendation and venture into the jump scare filled genre. But, The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020) is so much more.
Don’t worry, there will be no spoilers at all down below.
For those who don’t know, The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020) is a Netflix series that is a pseudo sequel, it shares the same creator and a couple stars, to The Haunting of Hill House (2018). The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020) is about an American woman, with a troubled past, who takes a job as an au pair at a mansion in the British country-side where something isn’t quite right.
The reason why I love Bly Manor, and its predecessor Hill House, is because the horror is secondary.
Don’t get me wrong, the horror is there. It is so there. I was always terrified. But, the horror is very much secondary to the human element. The human drama. The characters are so well, written that I fall in love with them all by the mid point of the first episode. I love them some much that I am terrified for them when they are getting chased by a demon or whatever. I’m even terrified for them when a ghost is hanging out in the back ground of a scene, which is a stable of the series, hidden ghosts. I’m heartbroken when something bad happens to them. I cheer when they escape the terrible situations. I love all these characters and want nothing but the best for them. But, unfortunately, it is a horror show, so that is unlikely to happen. Which only adds to the horrible, but somehow addictive, dread you feel watching the show.
My internal monologue while watching every episode was basically: Character A is happy in this scene? Oh no, what’s about to happen next? No one is allowed to be too happy in the show! Oh god… Oh no… please no… Oh god….
It is through watching Bly Manor, and Hill House, that I learned something interesting. I don’t hate horror. I hate bad horror. I hate horror movies when they over use jump scares. I hate when they kill characters just to have a wildly gory scene. I hate when they barely try to make characters I can care about.
Bly Manor doesn’t have no jump scares, but the jump scares are well crafted. They add to the terror, to the suspense. Where in lesser horror, my reaction to a jump scare is more a long the lines of “ah! Oh it was just a jump scare. That’s lame.” But, in Bly Manor, my reaction is “Ah! Oh no! I love that character! I hope they escape that ghost!” Which is a huge difference in my enjoyment.
If you you enjoy heartbreakingly good human drama in a horror setting, I beg you watch Bly Manor, and Hill House for that matter.