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Review: 'The Haunting of Bly Manor' tastefully revives old ghost story

Deliberately paced Netflix series expands on 'The Turn of the Screw'

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

As stately supernatural soap operas go, “The Haunting of Bly Manor” goes quite nicely.

But stately is the key word there. Where most modern horror stories charge forth as quickie gore and jump festivals, “Haunting” moves far more deliberately and over the curse of its nine hours nary a drop of blood is spilled.

Victoria Pedretti in "The Haunting of Bly Manor."

This is in keeping with the source material, Henry James’ late-19 th century novella “The Turn of the Screw,” which has been the basis for umpteen films over the year. Its slight, fuzzy story has necessarily been expanded (padded?) to fill out a series.

The basics are still here, though. Two young orphaned siblings, Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) and Jamie (Amelia Eve), both a bit off, live in a remote, expansive English manor. Their London-based, emotionally frigid uncle (Henry Thomas) hires an American woman, Dani (Victoria Pedretti), as their tutor/governess.

Dani soon discovers odd things go on in the manor: Muddy footprints appear in the night, Jamie seems to be talking to the wallpaper and Miles is a bit schizoid. All this gets established in the first two episodes and probably could have been resolved in a third. But the series decides to go into everyone’s backstories, episode by episode, the way series do.

The nice thing is it pretty much works. Oh, there’s a great deal of silliness and some false notes — it is a ghost story, after all  and some explanations add up while others just drift away. But in the end “Bly Manor” dares to make at least some sense (which is likely blasphemy to Henry James fanatics).

This is a companion piece to Netflix’s previous adaptation of “The Haunting of Hill House,” with shared cast members, making it a sort of morphing Fargo-esque ghost anthology series. May it morph on.

“The Haunting of Bly Manor”

GRADE: B

On Netflix

Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News.