2018 was the year when acclaimed horror filmmaker Mike Flanagan finally decided to bring his genre precision to the small screen in the form of Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House. The adaptation of Shirley Jackson's seminal novel was a visual and emotional powerhouse that didn't pull punches when delivering the scares – it was my favorite show of the year – and much anticipation is being heaped atop Flanagan's follow-up, The Haunting of Bly Manor.
As if the excitement surrounding the second Haunting season wasn't already building quickly enough at a natural pace, Mike Flanagan has dropped what might be the most potentially successful pre-release buzz possible, saying The Haunting of Bly Manor is even scarier. In his words:
We’re looking at all the ghost stories of Henry James as the jumping-off point for the season, so it very much is a whole new deal. It’s a cool way to expand on some of the things I loved about Season 1, but within the framework of a new story, without having to be restrained by the decisions we made last time. For Henry James fans, it’s going to be pretty wild, and for people who aren’t familiar with his work, it’s going to be unbelievably scary. I already think it’s much scarier than Season 1, so I’m very excited about it.
I don't know about you guys, but I thought that Hill House was easily the scariest show on TV last year. In fact, I'd put it up there with the scariest shows of all time, along with shows like Twin Peaks, Channel Zero and American Horror Story (on occasion). It was something of a pop culture crime that the Netflix series got totally shunned by awards circles, but maybe an even freakier second season will shake the TV Academy right out of their voting stereotypes.
The biggest question, obviously, is how in the hell this show could possibly get more scary. More freaky out-of-focus ghouls that only get noticed upon rewatching episodes? More familial circumstances in funeral homes that exude exponentially expanding dread? Both of those suggestions and more? That sounds about right.
When the second season of Mike Flanagan's Haunting series was announced, the subject matter was teased out through quotes from Henry James' celebrated novella The Turn of the Screw, widely considered to be one of the greatest and most influential ghost stories, so to speak. The source material was a natural follow-up to Shirley Jackson's Hill House in terms of literary prowess, and also spoke to some of the same "is it real or imagined?" themes that Flanagan leaned on in Season 1.
In the same way that Mike Flanagan expanded upon Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House for its TV adaptation, he and his writing team are doing the same with Turn of the Screw. Interestingly, and understandably, the filmmaker seemingly confirmed to Birth.Movies.Death that the season will also be inspired by more from James' bibliography beyond just that sole text.
The reason why this would be an understandable move is because The Turn of the Screw is hardly a literary tome, coming in at around 115 pages, give or take. It would be all but impossible to stretch the story of the governess and her wards into 10-13 hours of television, so incorporating more influences is only natural.
That said, The Turn of the Screw is really the only horror-adjacent novel that Henry James wrote, so it would seem that Mike Flanagan will be inspired by many more of James' themes and character work. Of course, that fits right in with Flanagan's interests, seeing as how James was very fond of creating contradictions within his main characters, creating frameworks of questionable motivations and complex personalities.
While The Portrait of a Lady may not have any ghastly frights meant to strike terror into streaming audiences' hearts, the novel's handling of betrayal, honor and independence will certainly get enmeshed in the story of Victoria Pedretti's governess Dani and everyone else in the upcoming season. Pedretti's Hill House co-star Oliver Jackson-Cohen is the only other cast member at this point, though Flanagan claimed there will be more returning faces from Season 1, as well as some new and exciting cast members that will be revealed in the future.
For now, we're not sure when The Haunting of Bly Manor will start scaring the shite out of audiences, but we can probably expect to see it in mid-to-late 2020, after Mike Flanagan's Shining sequel Doctor Sleep has come and gone.