The Haunting of Bly Manor caught my attention recently. I have enjoyed the storytelling of the series far more than I expected to. It brings to mind the type of framing used in graphic novels. The narration is easy and natural, like the sort I admire from Neil Gaiman.
There will be plenty of opinions being spread about this series, so I will leave the critiques to others for now. I expect many will be unfortunately complaining that it isn’t very scary. This is really an issue of expectations versus reality, as it nearly always is with disappointments.
The psychological energy explored in this story is what I find compelling. Without delving much into Bly Manor, the theme which grips me is that everyone carries the psychic energy created during great and tragic loss. There is also similar energy from joys, but the series seems to be driven forward upon the nexus of various tragedies and mistakes, all mingling and swirling around a peculiar geographic location. These energies cross the normal barriers of linear time. The “confusion” in the narration is a result of the natural confusion we humans encounter when the expected rules of memory misbehave.
To borrow an analogy from Stephen King’s character, Dick Halloran, there is an energy which lingers in a place after something bad happens, like when someone burns toast. Even after the toast is gone, the smell lingers. The energy created during loss and tragedy doesn’t simply vanish. It will become manifest in whatever form that may be experienced. If you wish to call it ghosts, or hauntings, then carry on. However, it may just as easily take up the role of a psychosis or some kind of psycho-emotional expression within those who are near it.
Another compelling aspect of the story is the nature of regret. This term, regret, is far deeper than simply feeling bad about something you’ve done, or perhaps didn’t do. It acts as the tether which binds us to the energy of loss and tragedy. Until we can absolve ourselves of the burden of guilt, the sense of responsibility and unresolved penance, we relive bits and pieces of that energy in dozens of ways. We feel it, even if we don’t consciously know what we feel, and often see the manifest energy, though our senses can be manipulated.
The story is a finely crafted exploration of psychological stress and drama. It is not filled with jump scares and gruesome killings. Growing up with lots of those types of stories, I am rather relieved to see writing move in the other direction. It’s pleasant to become involved in an actual narrative that is demanding and engaging. It will be interesting to see how the creators attempt to resolve all of the threads and narratives that have been spun for the viewers.