‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ Isn’t a Ghost Story — No Spoilers

Mike Flanagan is best known for his work in horror. In October 2018, he terrified Netflix subscribers with his rendition of The Haunting of Hill House. Now, fans are excited about the second installment in the anthology series — The Haunting of Bly Manor. This season, viewers are in for a surprise. While The Haunting of Bly Manor is based on a ghost story, Flanagan is leaning into the love story underneath. 

VICTORIA PEDRETTI as DANI in THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR
VICTORIA PEDRETTI | EIKE SCHROTER/NETFLIX © 2020

Henry James’s ‘The Turn of the Screw’ is the ‘backbone’ of ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ 

James’s horror novella The Turn of the Screw came out in October 1898. Told by an unnamed narrator, the story is about a young governess who is charged with caring for two children. Eventually, she becomes convinced she’s living out a real-life ghost story. 

Flanagan’s adaptation maintains the original character’s names, just as he did with Shirley Jackson’s characters in The Haunting of Hill House

“I think of [The Turn of the Screw] as the backbone of this season — [the] through-line that carries us from beginning to end,” Flanagan explained to Games RadarThe Turn of the Screw has already been done several times. As such, Flanagan was compelled to tell more of James’s work in a way that was thematically linked together. 

“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,” he continued. “It’s all wrapped up in what seems to be familiar, but that familiarity goes away really early in the first episode.” 

‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ is a ‘Gothic Romance,’ according to horror producer Mike Flanagan

Flanagan served fear straight up with The Haunting of Hill House. But Bly Manor is about the love story within The Turn of the Screw.

Bly Manor is — at its heart — a love story,” the showrunner said in a release about the series. He continued: 

Gothic Romance is often misunderstood — something about the word ‘romance’ lends itself to expectations of something tawdry, syrupy. Sappy even.

But in Henry James’s world, ‘romance’ had a different connotation. Romance meant mystery and excitement — and Gothic Romance meant horror and ruin. Romance held buried secrets, supernatural agony, and the sense of encroaching doom.

‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ features multiple romances

The Haunting of Bly Manor examines several types of relationships. From a Bonnie-and-Clyde love story to a sisterly feud over a wealthy suitor, the second season of the anthology series captures romance the way James intended — cloaked in a ghost story. 

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And while Flanagan leans into James’s idea of a love story, he doesn’t neglect the need for more modern love stories. Set in the 1980s, Bly Manor tells the story of one character who struggles with their sexuality.

“We have gone back through all of James’s horror fiction in our efforts to celebrate an author whose influence can still be felt to this day,” Flanagan explained in the release. “[Bly Manor is] woven into the DNA of modern genre like a pale, wide-eyed ghost peering out from behind the facade of contemporary horror.” 

For Flanagan, “Gothic Romance has teeth.” That’s exactly what fans will find in each love story woven into the latest installment of The Haunting

The Haunting of Bly Manor will be available Oct. 9.