‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ reviews: The ‘Hill House’ follow-up delivers ‘a powerful and poignant message,’ but is it ‘too rarely scary’?

Two years after “The Haunting of Hill House” — Mike Flanagan‘s modern reimagining of Shirley Jackson’s 1959 gothic horror novel of the same name — made viewers’ skin crawl, the “Haunting” anthology series is back with its second installment, “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” which is based on several of Henry James‘ works, primarily “The Turn of the Screw.” The entire nine-episode season drops on Netflix on Friday, Oct. 9, but what do critics say about the highly anticipated successor to “Hill House”?

As of this writing, “Bly Manor” has a Metacritic score of 65 based on eight reviews, four of which are positive and four somewhat mixed. On Rotten Tomatoes, the series is rated fresh with 88 percent based on 34 reviews, only four of which are rotten. Its critics’ consensus summarizes the reviews by saying, “It may not be as scary as its predecessor, but with plenty of spooky tricks inside its haunted halls and a strong sense of heart, ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ is another solid entry into Mike Flanagan’s growing horrorography.” Though still positive, “Bly Manor’s” scores are thus far slightly below its predecessor’s 79 on MetaCritic and 93 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Katie Parker, Victoria Pedretti, Kate Siegel and Henry Thomas are among the returnees in the “Bly Manor” cast, which critics call “consistently solid as a rock top to bottom.” Praise is particularly directed at Pedretti, who, following her memorable supporting turn on “Hill House,” now leads the pack as Dani Clayton, a young governess who cares for two children in Bly Manor after their parents tragically die. The actress, who “plays the part of Dani like she’s constantly one stiff breeze away from a panic attack,” is referred to as one of “our best modern-day horror leads” by Collider. Other singled-out standouts include Jackson-Cohen, whose “magnetic” turn is a 180 from “Hill House,” and new addition T’Nia Miller, who “nestles into your psyche as she portrays a self-determined woman who goes to great lengths to shield herself from the pains of life,” according to TV Guide.

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Despite not serving up as many scares as its predecessor, “Bly Manor” as a whole is described as an “entertaining,” “evocative” follow-up installment. But will award groups finally embrace the ambitious anthology series? Even though it enjoyed critical acclaim, “Hill House” was completely blanked at last year’s Emmys, maxing out at Art Directors and Writers Guild Awards nominations, neither of which it won. That said, the two-year hiatus might have allowed for more people to discover it, and a decent boost from the winter awards could finally put it on the Emmy map.

Check out some of the reviews for “Bly Manor” below, and discuss this and more with your fellow TV fans in our forums.

Jenn Adams (Consequence of the Sound): “The heart of ‘Bly Manor’ is the relationships between the characters and perhaps the most haunting aspect of the story is the way viewers will see themselves represented in them, for better or worse. We have all lost someone, been betrayed, or felt the rage of losing a piece of our identity. Flanagan explores these relationships while delivering a powerful and poignant message about moving on in the face of grief. ‘Bly Manor’ is not ‘Hill House,’ but left to its own devices, this ‘Haunting’ offers a beautiful examination of love and the ways we hold onto what we’ve lost.”

Daniel D’Addario (Variety): “The follow-up series, which shares with its predecessor a sensibility, a high-flying literary inspiration (the work of Henry James this time), a crisp and pristine visual aesthetic and some cast members, never takes flight in the way genre devotees might expect. For one thing, it’s too rarely really scary; for another, more important one, it gets confounded by its own story, doing something that’s less like toggling between corners of a complicated tale and more like losing threads.”

Sadie Gennis (TV Guide): “‘Bly Manor’ is a love story above all else, and if fans can shed their preconceptions and allow ‘Bly Manor’ to be just what it is, they’ll find a lot of value: a moody tale, great performances, tragic romances, and a reminder of how lucky we are to find love in this world where nothing — not the past, and definitely not the future — are ever guaranteed.”

David Griffin (IGN): “Although this story is completely separate from ‘Hill House,’ Flanagan successfully employs some of his best storytelling techniques used in Season 1, like bouncing through time in order to offer more revelatory context and depth to each character. Each backstory is carefully crafted in such a way that, by the end of the series you have a strong sense of why each character made the decisions that they did.”

Brian Tallerico (The Playlist): “It’s also hard to deny Flanagan’s visual eye. The dialogue and pacing may falter at times, but the look of ‘Bly Manor’ never does. He makes the most of long hallways, forcing viewers to strain to determine if the figure in the distance is just a lamp or…something else. He really comes to life on the grounds, presenting the long walk to Bly Manor as something that would make the hair on the back of your neck stand up even in the brightest sunshine. It’s a cursed place. With his design team, he’s created a setting that feels ominous even in its most mundane corners.”

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