For Mike Flanagan’s last Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House, the horror writer/director took Shirley Jackson’s classic ghost tale and adapted it into a very different story.
In his latest series, The Haunting of Bly Manor, he’s provided another revisionist take on an iconic haunted house, this time focusing on Bly Manor – the property at the heart of Henry James’ chilling horror novella The Turn of the Screw, first published in 1898.
Like Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor is not necessarily a direct adaptation, but there are nonetheless a fair few similarities between the two works – we’ve taken a look at how closely the two resemble each other below.
How similar is The Haunting of Bly Manor to The Turn of the Screw?
While Flanagan has taken James’ story and turned it into something rather different, there are nonetheless a fair few similarities – right down to the fact that both begin with a narrator regaling the chilling tale to a captive audience.
The central premise and set-up to the Netflix series is more or less identical to the novella: a governess arrives at Bly to look after the two orphaned children, with their uncle wanting little to do with the property.
Of course even with the set-up there are a couple of changes: the action in the series takes place in the ’80s – much later than the late 19th century setting of the original, while in the novella the governess does not arrive from the US, as is the case in the show.
Anyway, in both the series and the novella, the governess begins to fear that the property is haunted – seeing spectres that closely resemble two deceased former employees at the manor and suspecting that the children are also aware of the ghosts, though they deny it. But from there the series begins to diverge from the plot of the novella.
The love story aspect is completely new for the series – indeed the character Jamie does not exist in the source material, nor for that matter does the chef Owen. The events of the final episode, therefore, are original material for the TV show – the book ends in more sombre fashion, with Miles dying in the governess’ arms after Flora has been whisked away by Mrs Grose.
In The Turn of the Screw, the nanny forms a close bond with Mrs Grose (named Hannah in the TV show) who becomes her close confidant when she begins to notice the strange and eerie happenings in the property. And while Mrs Grose does exist in the show, the character is fairly different – we dig much deeper into her backstory and there’s a certain reveal about her fate which is not alluded to in the book.
Indeed most of the backstories for the characters – and all the ‘dream hopping’ – are new for the series, including the governess’ previous engagement, which had ended in tragedy when her fiancé accidentally stepped in front of a moving vehicle after an argument.
The characters of Peter Quint and Rebecca Jessel are sketched out a bit more as well. In the novella, Jessel and Quint, deceased former employees at the property who had been in a relationship with each other, had had very close relationships with Flora and Miles and continued to exert control over them as ghosts – which is similar to what happened in the book.
But in the series we dig far more deeply into their pasts both in the house and even beforehand – while Quint is given an altered backstory as a business associate of Henry Wingrave.
Meanwhile, in the novel the children’s uncle is never named, while his reasons for avoiding Bly are also never made clear – unlike in the series, where he is shown to have been having an affair with the children’s mother and is revealed to be the real father of Flora.
Which other Henry James works appear in the narrative?
While it is The Turn of the Screw that serves as the main inspiration for The Haunting of Bly Manor, Flanagan has worked in aspects of some of the writer’s other works.
Most prominently featured is the 1868 short story The Romance Of Certain Old Clothes, a loosely adapted version of which forms the narrative of an entire episode later in the series – working as a backstory for Bly Manor itself.
Meanwhile elements of The Jolly Corner, The Great Good Place and The Way It Came are also all present in the story to greater or lesser degrees.
Beyond that, there are also a few Easter eggs and references to other Henry James works – often with the names of the characters – for example the chef’s name Owen and the children’s surname Wingrave are both references to the short story Owen Wingrave, published in 1892.
Meanwhile, Dani Clayton’s (played by The Haunting of Bly Manor cast member Victoria Pedretti)surname is likely a reference to director Jack Clayton, who helmed the 1961 film version of The Turn of the Screw, titled The Innocents.
The new series from Flanagan is also linked to his Netflix horror hit The Haunting of Hill House thematically if not narratively, for those fans who are wondering how The Haunting of Bly Manor is connected to Hill House
If you’re still unsure about whether or not the new series on Netflix is for you, check out our The Haunting of Bly Manor review.