'The Haunting of Bly Manor': A Guide to Season 2 of 'Hill House'

The Haunting of Hill House is reopening its doors, in a manner of speaking.

Netflix on Thursday morning announced a second season of The Haunting, turning it into an anthology franchise, with creator Mike Flanagan and executive producer Trevor Macy returning for the second season as part of the pair's new multi-year deal with the streamer. When Haunting returns in 2020, however, the supernatural horror series will look vastly different from its hit first season with a fresh coat of paint and a new name: The Haunting of Bly Manor, according to Netflix.

Much as the first season drew inspiration from Shirley Jackson's famous The Haunting of Hill House novel, Bly Manor takes on a different story altogether: Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. The 1898 novella depicts an Essex country house and a governess who has been hired to look after a pair of siblings. Her work gets severely complicated by the apparent existence of several ghosts around the manor, as well as the grip they may hold over the children. James shadows his narrative in doubt, ambiguous as to whether these spirits are real, or simply apparitions in the governess' head.

As with Hill House, Turn of the Screw has inspired multiple adaptations over the years, including the 1950 stage play The Innocents and its subsequent 1961 film adaptation. Michelle Dockery and Dan Stevens headlined an adaptation for BBC One in 2009, before moving onto their considerably more recognizable roles as Mary and Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey. In 2020, Universal Pictures is set to release a contemporary adaptation called The Turning, set in Maine and sprung forth from the vision of director Floria Sigismondi and executive producer Steven Spielberg, and starring an actor who knows a thing or two about Netflix nightmares: Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard. Beyond direct adaptations, Turn of the Screw has served as the basis for inspiration behind other works, including the 2001 Nicole Kidman thriller The Others.

Though the story of the Crain family will not continue, The Turn of the Screw holds many similarities to what came out of season one. The narratives follow similar skeletons. A set of characters are exposed to paranormal activity inside a mysterious house. Both plots concern children and siblings with various ghostly interactions. Additionally, both works aim for terror rather than horror, focused on the psyche rather than screams.

All this is to say that Flanagan may be using James' novella as a jumping off point, rather than a literal retelling of the book's events. The first season was a large departure from Jackson's noted novel, after all, thanks in no small part to the new roster of characters and the modernized setting. It was a "remix," Flanagan previously told The Hollywood Reporter, that was necessary to give a fresh take on a story that had been revived multiple times.

"It was about identifying the elements, characters, moments and even chunks of prose from the book that I really loved," he said, "and taking all those pieces and trying to build something different out of the same ingredients."

 
It remains to be seen whether the actors from the show's breakout first season will be returning in different roles, as seen in Ryan Murphy's signature horror franchise American Horror Story. Flanagan has a track record of working with the same actors across numerous projects, including some favorites from Haunting season one: Carla Gugino, Annabeth Gish and Elisabeth Reaser. One can imagine any one of them inhabiting the role of the Governess in Flanagan's take on the classic Henry James tale. Other talented stars Flanagan has worked with in the past, for those who wish to draw up their wish lists: Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy), Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) in 2013's Oculus, and Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns) in 2016's Before I Wake.

Whoever winds up in the season, whether it's someone from the first iteration of Haunting or beyond, Flanagan's next tale within the world of Netflix's scary new anthology is positioned to modernize the original tale with its own setting, ghosts, victims and themes — all but guaranteeing a stomach-churning blend of old horrors and fresh nightmares alike.