Is “The Haunting of Bly Manor” a worthy sequel to “The Haunting of Hill House”?

Stella Fetherston, Art Editor

Spoiler warning for The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor


I loved The Haunting of Hill House as much as the next horror buff, so when I heard the series was being renewed for a second season, I was ecstatic! I thought that Bly Manor was going to be a terrifying follow-up to Hill House, but instead of leaving me with newfound paranoia, Bly Manor just left me as, well, a mess. And as the end credits rolled (as did my tears), I couldn’t help thinking how wrong I was. 

These two shows are fundamentally different — that much is certain. From the title card theme song to the color palette, almost everything feels brighter in Bly Manor. Personally, I found myself less afraid while watching the second season. There was less gore, fewer scary monsters and even the jump scares were far and few between. Make no mistake, Hill House is a Trojan horse; I came for the spooks and stayed for the poignant narrative about death. If I’ve learned anything about Mike Flanagan, the director, it’s that he loves to use horror as a vessel for other genres. But I believe that Bly Manor took a step beyond Hill House as it shed its outer layer. So when I watched this show, expecting to be scared stiff, I was kind of disappointed. 

As I watched Bly Manor, I realized I wasn’t afraid of the ghosts, I was afraid of becoming one. In fact, I was terrified by the idea of losing the people I love. The ghosts of Hill House were trapped by a malevolent structure for no reason, only that they were unlucky enough to trust it. As far as I know, there aren’t many haunted houses that will exploit my deepest trauma.  

Enter Bly Manor, a show about loss. I watched for nine episodes as my favorite characters, living and dead, struggled, cried and fell apart. Then I watched them as they tried to put themselves back together again. In Bly Manor, the main antagonist isn’t the house as much as it is a ghost. She was just a person who had died and refused to go. Sure, I’ll yell when there are monsters, but confronting the fact that no matter how much I love someone, I can still forget them? And they can still forget me? No thanks, Mike, I’ve had enough existential dread for one day. 

Ok, full transparency, I lied before. Bly Manor isn’t a story about loss. In fact, Bly Manor is hard to even characterize as horror. 

To quote one character, “You said it was a ghost story. It isn’t. It’s a love story.” 

I think this is the writers’ way of addressing the audience, saying, “I know this isn’t what you expected, but that’s ok. It’s a different story.” Beneath the haunted house and the vengeful ghosts, Bly Manor is a love story, and like the best love stories, it is also a tragedy. 

So to answer the question, “Is Bly Manor as good as Hill House?” Yes, yes it is, but not in the way you might think.