TV review: The Haunting of Bly Manor
This second edition of showrunner Mike Flanagan's Haunting anthology series for Netflix follows the success of 2018's The Haunting Of Hill House.
While the two stories are not related, fans of Hill House may take a while to settle into Bly Manor's world, if only because they're spending too much time concentrating on the backgrounds trying to spot the ghosts Flanagan loaded the first show with.
Bly Manor is not as loaded with spooky Easter eggs.
Loosely based on Henry James' The Turn Of The Screw, it sees American au pair Dani (Victoria Pedretti) take on the job of looking after two orphaned children, Flora (Amelie Bea Smith) and Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth), in their family's stately pile.
The young actors are the series' ace cards.
Smith - who will instil the phrase "perfectly splendid" into your brain - manages to look as though she is trying to not let on to the adults that there's a presence in the corner.
Ainsworth is unnerving from the moment he stares into Flora's room.
Flanagan is a master of letting the viewers scare themselves, so much so that when he does turn up the scares, as say in the second episode's game of hide-and-seek, you will seriously consider switching on the lights to watch.
Yes, it is so dark in parts, this needs to be watched in the darkest room you have.
(Those watching with an Apple screen may curse how reflective they are).
While it is the second Haunting and shares some of the previous cast, this is not simply a retread of Hill House.
There's plenty of tension (thanks to some highly creepy sound design), a number of scares, and yet it is a very different series.
Bly Manor does more with the idea of spirits, grief and loss - whether from the perspective of the living or the dead.
It feels like a more rounded, satisfying story with plenty of reveals.
And on that note, the fifth episode focusing on housekeeper Hannah Grose (T'Nia Miller) is a stunning piece of television.
Should the Haunting series survive the Netflix two-and-done axe, the quality of Bly Manor makes a third instalment all the more wanted.