‘The Haunting’ Anthology Succeeds in 1 Area Where ‘American Horror Story’ Fails
The Haunting of Bly Manor is still on a lot of people’s minds and might be the most talked-about new horror series this holiday season. While it’s not as scary as The Haunting of Hill House, it brought the chills and still delivered a really engrossing storyline with lovable characters.
The two seasons in The Haunting series thus far have made for great television and it follows an anthology format like fellow horror series, American Horror Story. However, the feeling that audiences are left with at the end of each is very different. The Haunting of Bly Manor and Hill House captivates viewers in a way that American Horror Story doesn’t all the way through. [Spoiler alert: Spoilers ahead for The Haunting of Bly Manor].
‘The Haunting’ and ‘American Horror Story’ are both horror anthology series
Before American Horror Story’s premiere in 2011, there weren’t a ton of horror television series that could go on and win awards like it did. It was also one of the first to take on an anthology format, with each season being something completely different than the last.
Even though The Haunting of Hill House wasn’t nominated for the type of awards AHS was after its first season, the impact left by the Netflix series was felt. It premiered during the Halloween season in 2018 and had a mix of known and unknown talent like American Horror Story did at its inception.
After that first season with the Crain family, director and showrunner Mike Flanagan decided to continue The Haunting series by going the anthology route. That’s what lead to The Haunting of Bly Manor covering the horror work of Henry James as opposed to Shirley Jackson, the author that inspired Season 1.
‘American Horror Story’ really struggles to keep its momentum
After nine seasons, American Horror Story is a staple. It has its key actors that come back nearly every season. And it also attracted big names like Jessica Lange.
However, with so many seasons under its belt, it’s also very obvious what its biggest problem is: conclusions. Essentially, American Horror Story has a problem finishing. Within each season as well as season to season.
If you ask an AHS fan their favorite theme or season, more often than not they’ll say one of the first three: Murder House, Asylum, or Coven. Now, Seasons 8, Apocalypse, and 9, 1984, saw a bit of a resurgence within the storytelling and new actors brought on.
But even just within each season, some of the worst-rated episodes are near its tail end, sometimes even the finale. There are extravagant sets, intriguing characters, and enough conflict to start a fire. But when it’s all said and done, the flair at the start of the season dies down by the climax.
An American Horror Story season is either high-energy throughout or it fizzles out by the end. That makes way for a “meh” finale sometimes. Not to mention the storytelling can neglect some characters in favor of others, even when they’re critical to a story.
There are some finales, like Murder House or Apocalypse among others, that delivers a consistent season. But then there are some like Roanoke that does too much at the end, or Freak Show that doesn’t do enough.
‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ and ‘Hill House’ work better because they master their ending
The Haunting anthology is the complete opposite. The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor are set up like drawn-out horror movies. Everything comes together at the last second. The action, the answers, everything just clicks in place at once near the end. It makes for finales that feel satisfying and worth the time it took to get there.
That’s not to say the beginning of the seasons are lackluster. In fact, it’s the opposite, which makes the storytelling all the more addicting. The Haunting sets up its characters well by setting aside nearly one episode each to lay the groundwork and make them complex. While doing that, the rest of the story flows throughout as well.
For example, each Crain kid got their own episode. Nell’s death and the events leading up to it are shown simultaneously through these episodes. And by Episode 6, her funeral is this massive powder keg when the Crains meet up. From there it goes full throttle until the Red Room is opened in the finale and all the answers just explode out like confetti.
Bly Manor followed a similar format, even if it wasn’t as defined. It doesn’t have this suspenseful, creepy ending like Hill House, but instead an adoring slow halt to a stop with Dani and Jamie’s story. Each finale matched the general vibe of the season it went along with.
Season 2 suffered a little more with its flow due to Episode 8 and the long backstory of Viola and Perdita. But the finale was still really satisfying.
So even though American Horror Story has its reputation of gore, frightening imagery, and messed up content, The Haunting has a hold on how to finish in a way that AHS hasn’t consistently mastered in nine seasons.