I just finished watching the Haunting of Bly Manor. I’m a huge fan of 2018’s The Haunting of Hill House and have been looking forward to Bly Manor for a couple of years. Before I get into spoiler territory, I found Bly to be interesting, but not engaging like Hill House. I didn’t find it scary, but it was eerie and creepy.
Bly Manor is much slower than Hill House. It has a different premise with a lot more characters to introduce. While the episode structure was actually very similar – focusing mostly on one character’s journey each time – the amount of backstory was much different. In Hill House you could learn about the characters across episodes through shared experiences. They were all a family and you could start with some level of familiarity as to what that meant. In Bly they were mostly strangers so there was a lot more backstory to build and it felt a bit tiring.
The pacing was very different as well. I found Hill House to be both emotionally engaging and scary as hell. There were jump scares all over the place, and not the stupid kind you see in cheap horror movies. These were genuinely unexpected and startling moments. The house had legit ghosts, you saw them, and they were scary. Bly was much slower. It had ghosts but you barely saw more than a few of them, and outside of the Lady of the Lake and Dani’s reflected-eye fiancé, they weren’t scary. There was a general creepiness to everything but I really think they failed to capitalize on it by not doing much at all with the ghosts. There were no Bent Neck Lady from the backseat moments that literally caused me to fall off the Elliptical. I will say that the children were particularly unsettling though.
The story was interesting because it focused on some of the meta aspects of actually being a ghost. It tries to explain what happens when you are dead, at least at Bly Manor. The answer to that it that you hop from memory to memory repeating the same thing over and over. And over. It was neat the first few times and then it was too much. Enough Hannah, enough! For me there was just too much meta-ghost stuff, as well as a lot of crying.
Overall Bly is slow and meandering. It has some neat aspects to its storyline but I feel it needed less repetition and more ghost scariness. And less crying. Speaking of crying though, I did find Hannah’s episode (ep 5) very sad and did tear up when we found out that she was dead. She was probably my favorite character in the series, the closest to the caring feeling I got from Olivia in Hill House.
Hill House wins out for me. I don’t know if I’d watch Bly again. Maybe I would. Either way, I still hope Mike Flanagan brings us another installment in the Haunting series in a couple of years.