The scariest part of The Haunting of Bly Manor is that it just might force you to face your own internal demons.
That's an incredibly deep assertion, but the nine-episode horror series, now on Netflix, is packed with heartfelt takeaways about family, grief and the feeling that comes when the truth stares directly at you in the mirror.
A follow-up to director Mike Flanagan's 2018 smash The Haunting of Hill House, this second installment in the anthology introduces an entirely new story inspired by The Turn of the Screw, the 1989 novella by Henry James. In it, an American governess (Victoria Pedretti) arrives in the English countryside to look after two creepy orphaned children (Amelie Bea Smith and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) after the death of their former au pair. Sounds simple, right? Well, the plot elegantly twists and turns and will have viewers wondering who's alive and who's, you know, not.
Without spoiling too much, Bly Manor is a love story with fun jump-off-the-couch scares. And one of its best parts is getting to watch cast members from Hill House take up entirely new roles. In addition to Pedretti, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Henry Thomas, Katie Siegel and Catherine Parker return alongside three actors who are entirely new to the anthology: Tahirah Sharif, T'Nia Miller and Amelia Eve.
Speaking to E! News, Pedretti, Jackson-Cohen and Thomas opened up about getting the chance to be on set together again. After some jokes ("I don't like these people," Pedretti said), they each shared their favorite moments.
"It was great. I'd never experienced it before. You rarely ever work with the same actors again and again, and again and again," Jackson-Cohen said. (He plays an associate to the orphans' uncle.) Thomas, who plays said uncle, added, "It's a pleasure. It's great to feel like you're continuing on with something and it's a real repertory feel with Mike Flanagan because he brings a lot of the same people back again."
For Pedretti, the sentiment was similar: "I had such an incredible time doing the first season. It was such a great experience for me especially being my first professional job that I was looking forward to coming back."
Of course, a completely separate storyline means that aside from a few repeat actors and Flanagan's style, Hill House and Bly Manor are pretty different. Pedretti hinted at some of the differences between Hill House's Nell Crane and Bly Manor's Dani Clayton.
"Dani is a very, very different person from Nell. She's existing in a very different time period coming from a very different world and place, exploring, going on this adventure of putting herself in an environment where she is a fish out of water. I didn't feel like I actively tried to differentiate the characters," she said. "They're very different and they appear very differently, too. If the quality isn't enough, the physicality and the costume of the character is very different as well."
It's impossible not to notice that as she looks after the troubled orphans, Pedretti's Dani consistently appears worried, stressed and on the edge of a breakdown.
"All of this concern is really not for her own safety but rather this kind of, very fierce ravenous need to do anything it takes to make sure these children can heal from the trauma they already experienced, let alone encounter more and deal with that," Pedretti said. "That's how I tapped into it. She carries around a lot of anxiety already and she's fixated on trying to do whatever it takes to protect the children, which I think is appropriate for a caretaker."
Without giving any secrets away, Thomas said that his character's development was refreshing.
"Henry has an alter ego that manifests itself and for me that was one of the coolest things about this character and about the opportunity to play this role—was to explore both sides of that character's ego," he said. "It was an acting challenge but it was also its own reward."
For Flanagan fanatics, Bly Manor will absolutely raise one final question: is a third installment on the way?
The Haunting of Bly Manor is now streaming on Netflix.