“A love story disguised as a ghost story.”

Horror, for me, is not an easy genre to watch. I usually need company, daylight, the mute button and other tools that help me keep my sanity. So, it was with great trepidation that I watched ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ aka THBM. The outcome, however, was rather unexpected.

THBM is Netflix’s new horror web series and is the second instalment of ‘The Haunting’. It is set in the 1980s in Hampshire, England. It is narrated by an old lady at a present-day wedding and revolves around Dani – a newly appointed teacher (the ‘au pair’) for two orphans, Miles and Flora at Bly Manor. Dani settles in to care for the children along with Hannah the housekeeper, Owen the cook and Jamie, the gardener. She quickly discovers that things at Bly Manor are not quite as pleasant as the gardens and Lakes around it. The children are hiding their secrets, their previous teacher had apparently died by suicide, Hannah is distant, and Dani begins to see apparitions along with the demons from her past that she is constantly battling.

“The romance of certain old clothes” is the name of the penultimate episode of the series and is easily its best episode too. The kind of poetic beauty that the name evokes is exactly how I would describe the entire series. Horror, for some, means jump scares, for some, it is a gore fest, for some the story and motivations are prime, but THBM is a rare piece of a beautiful story told in a very quaint and ‘perfectly splendid’ manner.

THBM is not a typical horror flick and you will be disappointed if you are counting on jump scares and ugly ghosts. It is outshined by its predecessor, The Haunting at Hill House in the scare and shock value. But it has a different set of strengths. It is a slow-burn thriller that at first calms you with its beautiful scenery, then disconcerts you, then increasingly suffocates with its eeriness. The show also doesn’t care much for building suspense and reveals certain key plot devices early on, and rightly so. A strong story of this kind doesn’t need to depend on anyone key reveals to satisfy the viewers. It is, in fact, a love story disguised as a ghost story.

However, it is by no means a simple story. It features a rather complicated concept called ‘dream hopping’ that leaves us confused until almost the very end when it is all neatly wrapped up. Horror stories often have difficulty in matching the build-up with an equally satisfying payoff and this is where the THBM excels. After a strong beginning, a few episodes in the middle are a slight drag, but the payoff at the end is well worth it.

Its biggest strength is perhaps its characters. Each of them lent ample screen time, sometimes an entire episode, their stories, motivations and relationships with each other explored well. Another noteworthy aspect is how well the show envisages vintage Britain – in the set, costumes, accents and language. It was immensely satisfying to listen to Amelia Bea Smith ( the voice of Peppa Pig) ramble on in a polished British accent. The performances by Victoria Pedretti, Oliver Jackson Cohen, Amelia Eve, Tahira Sharif and T’Nia Miller are note-worthy, especially Oliver’s impeccable Scottish accent. The child artists, Amelia and Benjamin Evan are exceptional, especially Amelia. In credit to their performance, I will concede that stories that involve children are infinitely scarier.

In conclusion, definitely pick THBM for your next weekend binge, and instead of sleepless nights, you will walk away with a sense of warmth.

The Cinemawala Rating – 3.5/5 

 

About The Author-

Anushree Periasami is an electrical engineer from IIT Madras, currently working as a financial analyst. But her pet project has always been writing. An avid reader right from school, her favourite exercise was essay writing on novels and stories and the critical analyses of plots, characters, themes, etc. That interest continued right through college and to work as well. She was the Regional Editor for the internal quarterly magazine of her company – a compilation of interviews, technology articles and fun puzzles. The only things she loves as much as writing is watching movies and shows, especially masterpieces that aren’t advertised much and largely ignored. As Bojack Horseman put it, “But isn’t art, less what people put into it, but more what people get out of it ?” 

Also elle peut parler francais !

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