Analyzing “The Psychology of Horror” of “The Haunting of Bly Manor”

No Spoilers

The Haunting of Bly Manor

She would sleep, she would wake, she would walk…

She would sleep, she would wake, she would walk…

And time went by, how much time it was impossible to reason…

This poetic melancholic phrase describes my last few months. I am aware I wasn’t alone; many experienced those intense emotions. Many people were dealing with the same feeling of dread, feeling stuck, trapped in a hopeless loop that doesn’t end. There’s a story that echoes the same sentiments along with layers of different emotions and paranormal dimensions. It is a riveting tale of the complexity of love, loss, grief, and rage along with ghosts called “The Haunting of Bly Manor”. So, what comes to your mind when we talk about the horror genre? Ghosts! What are ghosts? Mike Flanagan insightfully defines, ″A ghost is simply an element of the past that refuses to live in the past and instead just encroaches upon the present that it alters the present. It changes the trajectory of the person who’s experiencing that little piece of the past….″ this explanation makes a lot of sense, if you ponder upon it, you will realize, we are not afraid of the dead but our own thoughts.

The brilliance of Mike Flanagan is he is not only a master storyteller but he is also a genius. He is the creator, writer, and director of this show. His past phenomenal work viz, The Haunting of the Hill House, Doctor Sleep, Gerald’s Game, Hush, and Oculus made me one of his biggest fans.  He created an altogether different horror genre that deals with the psychology of horror. Horror is fear, everyone has their own fear that they deal and fight with every day. He captures that deepest hidden invisible fear and manifests it into a giant black hole of a paranormal aura that engulfs people around. Also, I would like to point out what makes Mike stand apart from his other contemporaries is his ability to hold together the characters’ stories with Empathy. His commitment to empathy in a genre that’s too often deprived of it makes it so raw and appealing. He weaves a complex thread that explores how past trauma and regret shapes the present. Mike Flanagan’s stories are also kind of therapeutic if you are a keen observer. Just dive into the depth and see what the creators are trying to say in their stories, this will make your entertaining experience more fulfilling and fun.

Carla Gugino

The Haunting of Bly Manor is a Ghost story as described by the narrator at the beginning of the show, played by charismatic actress Carla Gugino, her enigmatic beauty and enchanting voice just makes her perfect storyteller in the series. It a story within a story that takes place in the ’80s, 90’s and also visits the 17th century. The story revolves around a few remarkable characters. Bly Manor is loosely based on Henry James novella, “The turn of the screw” and his short story “The Romance of Certain Old Clothes”. The Haunting of Bly Manor is not your typical horror jump scare story, actually, it is not scary in a conventional way as compare to its predecessor the classic “The Haunting of the Hill House”, but it is scary in a real sense if you pay close attention. It might not have an immediate effect on you after watching, however, may be in a few days or even weeks, it might hit you. Some stories grow on you.

Every character in this story is stuck in their past, unable to move forward and let go. Their past haunts them, be it the death of a loved one and the guilt of moving on from the memory of them. It perfectly encapsulates this thing we do to ourselves, we feel guilty about moving on from our past and as a result, we are trapped and burdened by our own emotions. The other lovely character feels trapped in coming back to a place he doesn’t like to take care of his ailing mother. He is a very caring person but he feels trapped in that situation. This trap and stuck feelings make him resent the very person, he loves and cares for. When love becomes an obligation, then free-will impedes and resentment begins. Then there is a couple who are so much in love that it becomes toxic after a point, they are unable to let go of each other nor are they are building a healthy foundation for themselves, hence trapped and stuck. One character has her guards up because she doesn’t want to get hurt again. One of the heartbreaking characters is the one who doesn’t want to accept her end. Some of them even learn to dream hop to visit a significant or happy memory from their past. They tuck away and dream hop that they lose the concept of time. Time starts working differently for them. It is so metaphoric, sometimes when we are in a situation where we feel hopeless, bored, lost, or stuck, we tend to dream hop to the old memories we want to visit. We hide in them, we feel comfortable in them, and we start daydreaming. Sometimes they make us happy, sometimes sad, and even depressed.

All these characters are trapped and haunted by their past, sometimes they do feel comfortable in that melancholic state, unable to move forward even if they want to. In their defense, it takes time to move forward if one is trapped by a trauma; it takes days sometimes weeks, months, years, even decades. But after a certain point, one should ask oneself to get up and take action, accept things, and move on with life and if there is a need then one should get help.

Bly Manor

However, there is more to this story than just the characters; after all, it’s about The Haunting of Bly Manor. In Mike Flanagan’s stories, every living, even non-living thing, every tiny detail is a part of the story. All the elements work together to build a complete narrative. Even an object has a story to tell. Bly Manor has its century-old tale about a character’s will so strong that it created its own gravity of purgatory. It absorbed everyone at Bly Manor. Days passed, months years decades even centuries passed. Those who came into its orbit remained lost forever, even forgotten, faded. Everything fades, all things flesh, stone even stars themselves. Time takes all things. It is the way of the world. The past recedes, memories fade, and so true does the spirit. Everything yields to time, even the soul.

The haunting of Bly Manor

This ghost story and Life in general is all about ACCEPTANCE.  That’s the conclusion; I came up with after watching The Haunting of Bly Manor. After sitting and viewing and going through all its haunting existential crises the characters go through. Acceptance of the past, be it trauma, mistakes, grief, guilt, learn from them, even if they haunt you, accept them rather than running away from them. Turn those sad poor ghosts into your allies, it may sound unreal but take your time and accept them. After accepting them, you will be surprised that you are no longer afraid of them. They are part of you and you are part of them. Moreover, always remember, everything fades. Therefore, don’t wait and go watch “The Haunting of Bly Manor”, especially in this Pandemic, it might resonate with the current scenario that we all are in. Besides, it is a Gothic love story at heart.

The Haunting of Bly Manor is now streaming on Netflix.

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