The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix

Netflix’s The Haunting of Bly Manor Trailer Gives Us Terrifically Scary Turn of the Screw Vibes

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The trailer for the second round of Netflix’s acclaimed horror anthology has arrived. The Haunting of Bly Manor follows The Haunting of Hill House, with many of that cast’s alums appearing in a brand new season inspired by the ghost stories of Henry James.

Confession time: I admire the horror genre, and have studied it, but I am easily scared and do not often go in for watching frightening things. However, I had to have a look at the trailer for The Haunting of Bly Manor, which dropped today, because it takes as its primary inspiration Henry James’ famous Victorian horror novella The Turn of the Screw, which I love a lot. I’ve been waiting to see what Netflix would do here since this project was announced last year. The trailer looks great, even if I watched it half-hidden behind my hands.

The Turn of the Screw has been adapted many times into many different formats from radio to film to opera to Broadway, and a straight adaptation was not the intent of Haunting mastermind writer/director Mike Flanagan. Instead, like Hill House‘s use of Shirley Jackson’s novel as base material, Bly Manor will take the bones of James’ story and run from there. Bly Manor will be set in more contemporary times, give us brand-new characters, and also infuse the new series with a host of other James ghost stories, most of which are less well-known than Turn of the Screw.

As ComingSoon.net reported in November 2019:

“The thing I have access to, that no other adaptation of ‘The Turn of to the Screw’ has, is the rest of Henry James’ ghost stories. I get to use all of them,” Flanagan said. “‘The Turn of the Screw’ has been adapted so many times. We know how perfectly it fits into a feature film format. We’re doing a whole season of television. I think of ‘Turning of the Screw’ as the backbone of this season – the through line that carries us from beginning to end. But we get to go off into ‘The Jolly Corner’ and ‘The Romance of Certain Old Clothes,’ and so many other of these wonderful ghost stories that people haven’t seen adapted before. It’s all wrapped up in what seems to be familiar, but that familiarity goes away really early in the first episode. It says, ‘We’re off on a whole other road.’”

A new report today from ComingSoon.net confirms that familiar faces from Hill House‘s cast will be appearing in Bly Manor.

The cast includes Hill House alums Victoria Pedretti (You), Oliver Jackson-Cohen (The Invisible Man), Henry Thomas (E.T.), and Catherine Parker (Absentia), as well as T’Nia Miller (Years and Years), Rahul Kohli (iZombie), Amelia Eve, Benjamin Ainsworth and Amelie Smith (EastEnders).

Pedretti will play the governess, Dani, who is looking after two unique children. Jackson-Cohen will play Peter, “a charming fellow.” Ainsworth and Smith will star as Miles and Flora from James’ novella, while Miller, Eve, and Kohli are set to star in lead roles.

In Turn of the Screw, the unnamed first-person narrator is a young governess who goes to a country estate to care for two young children. Their uncle, who hired her, is hands-off and absent. The governess, left primarily to her own devices, begins seeing a man and a woman around her gothic environs. She becomes convinced that these are the ghosts of the children’s former governess, Miss Jessel, and a house employee, Peter Quint, who were in a relationship. She also becomes convinced that the children can see and are in communication with these sinister figures, and increasingly spirals into a sort of hysteria that will lead to tragedy.

The brilliance and still-constant debate around Turn of the Screw is that while James’ stated intent was to write a straightforward ghost story, there’s been more than a century of debate as to whether the hauntings are actually happening or are all in the governess’s head. As a result, there remains “a longstanding critical dispute about the reality of the ghosts and the sanity of the governess.” This is a novella that you can read again and again and always come away with something new.

A repressed young woman with a clear interest in the children’s uncle, and obsessed with the sexual natures of Miss Jessel and Peter Quint (both toward each other and toward the children), the governess is a bundle of psychosexual chaos. It’s the very ambiguity of what’s “really” happening that has made Turn of the Screw such a fascinating, perennial classic.

I hope that The Haunting of Bly Manor will also play with the psychological factors alongside more straightforward scares, and in Flanagan’s more than capable hands, I’m sure this is will be the case. I’m also excited to see the influence of some of James’ lesser-known series getting their time onscreen. The spooky series comes to Netflix on October 9th, 2020, just in time for Halloween season.

(via Netflix, ComingSoon.net, image: Netflix)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.