The Reel Review
This Netflix adaptation of the 1898 Henry James horror novella The Turn of the Screw is the much-awaited follow up to 2018’s enormously popular horror miniseries The Haunting of Hill House. It is the tale of an American au pair (Victoria Pedretti) hired to take care of two orphaned young children at an English estate, following the tragic death of her predecessor.
Just as he did in The Haunting of Hill House, creator Mike Flanagan again has assembled a visually compelling, multi-generational story, in which his richly drawn characters gradually give up their secrets. And wow, there are some doozies. In addition to Pedretti, Flanagan brings back other Hill House stars – Carla Gugino as the storyteller; his real life wife Kate Siegel as Viola, the lady of Bly; Oliver Jackson-Cohen as dastardly Peter; Katie Parker as Perdita; and Henry Thomas (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) as Uncle Henry.
But the similarities end there, because The Haunting of Bly Manor is much more a gothic love story than it is horror, with Flanagan incorporating other James ghost stories into his adaptation. The hauntings experienced by the characters are more personal in nature. Other than a few chilling moments, the lack of scares will disappoint Hill House fans looking for more of the chilling creepiness of the prior miniseries.
And as well crafted as it is, there are a couple of areas where The Haunting of Bly Manor at times does fall short – namely, Henry Thomas’ distractingly abysmal British accent and a lethargic midsection compounded by a dizzying array of time jumps.
But viewers embracing this unconventional romantic twist on the iconic story are in for a real treat. Some of the big emotional moments are truly gorgeous in their raw humanity. Victoria Pedretti’s Dani is the perfect combination of genuine kindness haunted by a troubled past. Other standouts include T’Nia Miller (Years and Years) as housekeeper Hannah Grose, Oliver Jackson-Cohen (The Invisible Man) as the caddish Peter, and Amelia Eve as the badass gardener Jamie. Those who stick with the miniseries will witness the unfolding of a surprisingly poetic and beautifully tragic love story.
• This is the 35th TV or film adaptation of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw.
• Victoria Pedretti, who was Nell in The Haunting of Hill House and Lulu in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, is a 2017 graduate of Carnegie Mellon University.
• Production of the miniseries wrapped in Vancouver, Canada just before the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a suspension of television productions.