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The 10 Most Underrated John Carpenter Horror Films

These ten movies directed by horror-master John Carpenter sadly live on as underrated additions to the horror film genre—in fact, many of these you won’t ever hear mentioned in daily horror culture, but that’s a shame because all of these are worthy of at least a little attention.

Someone's Watching Me (1978) Movie Poster

Someone’s Watching Me (1978)

While this horror movie isn’t truly a paranormal horror tale, it is a classic horror tale that many women can relate to in their real lives—being stalked. True to form of successful movies that continue to live on from the 70s, Someone’s Watching Me (1978) is a traditional, “less is more,” type of piece. It relies upon the situations that would if one were to experience them in own life, would cause incredible anxiety and lasting fear. This is possibly Carpenter’s most underrated movie, perhaps simply due to the years that have passed since it was released. In truth, it’s the kind of movie that might constantly be giving loud advice to the main character while she gets increasingly sticky situations.

Someone’s Watching Me IMDB listing

The Fog (1980) Movie Poster

The Fog (1980)

As the title suggests, this film brings its scare from the fog—it’s a horror movie that focuses on the creeping and inevitable, there is no stopping the fog from rolling in, especially when it moves against the wind. What can you do when there is something deadly in the fog—something that moves with it, that kills without provocation? All you really can do when it comes is bolt your doors, lock your windows, and stay inside your house. This story of Captain Drake and his ill-fated crew is definitely a classic worth watching or re-watching if it has been a while.

Enjoy seafaring horror? Check out our article on hauntings at sea as well

The Fog IMDB listing

Creepshow (1982) Movie Poster

Creepshow (1982)

Honestly, this is one of those classic movies that you just have to watch, anthologies this entertaining are few and far between and while it’s not nail-bitingly scary, each of the stories are interesting and unique. This movie scared the pants off of me as a child, because it never went over-the-top with any attempts to use technology that was out of its reach but just believable enough to allow you to be in the story with the characters.

Creepshow IMDB listing

Christine (1983) Movie Poster

Christine (1983)

The classic tale about a boy and his first car—his possessed car that is. Have you ever felt that someone you know is overwhelmingly obsessed with one of their belongings, to the point that their life and well-being becomes intertwined with the well-being of their belonging? This film is among the first of its kind to really put an emphasis on the possession of an inanimate object in a meaningful way.

Christine IMDB listing

Prince of Darkness (1987) Movie Poster

Prince of Darkness (1987)

Although there are many movies based on the emergence of Satan, this was possibly one of the most imaginative takes on how the Prince of Darkness might escape from hell into the world. After a priest finds a huge vial filled with some unidentifiable slime, he requests that a scientist and his students to help him figure out what it really is; finding out what it is, is only a small part of the problem, once they find out they’ll realize it’s already too late. The end is already beginning, will they be able to stop it in time?

Prince of Darkness IMDB listing

They Live (1988)

They Live (1988)

This is one alien horror flick that stands out among the rest, They Live (1988) is a movie that is classic from the time that it was made and is definitely worthy of a shout out or three. If you’ve ever wondered where the line, “I’ve come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass—and I’m all out of bubble gum,” comes from, you’re in luck. Aside from the wrestler to actor shenanigans with Rowdy Roddy Piper, the acting is what you might expect from a movie made in the late eighties. Forget action movie alien invasions, this kind of invasion is creepier than any other witnessed in cinema history.

They Live IMDB listing

In the Mouth of Madness (1994) Movie Poster

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

This movie shows how society might devolve if violent books, movies, and video games were truly to blame for the erratic behavior of human beings—can an author really have the sway over the way people act, well if you were to read a Sutter Cane book, you might not be able to control yourself at all. It might sound far-fetched, but the easily persuaded might be just a short read away from storming the streets with axes in hand. This is not a predecessor of The Purge (2013), it’s another Carpenter movie that stands on its own within the horror genre, as a horror ride of the imagination—or at least the imagination of an author who wants to cause people to go mad.

In The Mouth of Madness IMDB listing

Village of the Damned (1995) Movie Poster

Village of the Damned (1995)

This is one of those movies where the terror develops over time, but if you’re one of those people who finds small children disturbing, this is definitely one that you might enjoy. What I like most about this movie is the creep factor—it’s not scary in the traditional sense, no real startling moments, nothing is going to pop out and scare you. The focus of the fear factor here is how it would feel to have a malevolent, creepy child in control of your actions. It reminds me of The Bad Seed (1956) if Rhoda were able to force you to kill yourself with her eyes.

Village of the Damned IMDB listing

Vampires (1998) Movie Poster

Vampires (1998)

Along with zombies, vampires have been creatures that have been overworked to death in books, films, and television shows, everyone has a new take on it to show why their vampires are somehow better, scarier, or more realistic than everyone else’s. Originally creatures that would incite fear, now they’re more and more often portrayed as objects of romance, love interests, so overdone that they went from truly evil, to rebellious bad boys. Fear not, Vampires (1998) is still in the genre of horror, where vampires truly are evil creatures suited only for hunting.

Vampires IMDB listing

The Ward Movie Poster

The Ward (2010)

Not conceived to be a true horror movie, this paranormal thriller offers more in the way of jump scares than much of anything else—while it doesn’t boast a well-known cast, the cast does a convincing job of selling their fear. The plot is enjoyable and decently executed, nevermind some of the plot holes, but the climax of fear is typically punctuated by a complete loss of the moment, followed directly by a cheap startle. The only thing that makes this movie less enjoyable is the ghost itself; we get a clear view of her from the beginning and there is no room left for that character and plot device to grow. It has its own share of twists and turns though, so the important thing about this movie is to watch until the very end—it doesn’t end exactly how you think it would.

The Ward IMDB listing

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Best Of Best of Movies Featured Scary Movies and Series

The Best Movies About the End of the World

Remember when everybody thought the world would end in 2012? Nearly a decade later and we’re still here, but the terrifying apocalyptic movies will never stop… and we like it that way. These films are the ideal combination of action, suspense, and horror – watching society unravel as the main characters quite literally run for their lives, often to no avail. What would you do if you were simply getting your hair done at the salon, when buildings started to collapse all around you? Is there any imaginable way to escape a natural disaster of this capacity? Answer these questions and get a fix of apocalyptic horror with these top-rated films about the end of the world.

These Final Hours (2015)

These final hours movie poster

If you found out the world was ending, what’s the first thing you would do? Some would say goodbye to their loved ones or chill out with Netflix and good food, but the protagonist in These Final Hours wants to party. And party hard. The film begins in Perth, Australia as an asteroid collides with Earth, with about twelve hours to go until a firestorm reaches the country. James wants to experience the “party to end all parties” before he exits the planet, but things take a unique turn as he meets new people and comes across terrifying things. This is definitely one of the most underrated end-of-the-world thrillers, ever. 

Take Shelter (2011)

Take Shelter movie poster

The end of the world is even more terrifying when it’s all happening inside your head, and that’s exactly what happens to Curtis LaForche in this apocalyptic thriller. He sees raindrops made of oil and swarms of black birds, while nobody else does… and his increasing anxiety and strange behavior begins to cause issues with his job, family, and life. Is he simply going through a rough time period, struggling with mental illness, or foreshadowing a future disaster? You’ll have to watch this Jessica Chastain thriller (her specialty) and find out. 

2012 (2009)

2012 end of the world movie poster

For many years, there were conspiracy theories about the world ending in 2012, as this was the conclusion of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. Obviously, it didn’t happen… but we did get a pretty sweet disaster movie out of it. Released in 2009, this film centers around Jackson Curtis and his attempts to save his family from impending doom. And by that, we mean a series of natural disasters that are slowly crumbling the Earth and killing off the population. This film has the ideal combination of action and scares, and you can sleep easy knowing that we all survived the year 2012. 

I Am Legend (2007)

I am legend movie poster

I hope you are enjoying the apocalypse. So what do you do when 90% of the Earth’s population is killed by a virus, while you’re the 1% who lives and the other 9% are terrifying mutants who want to kill you? Ask scientist Robert Neville, who is living a post-apocalyptic life in the ruins of Manhattan. Will Smith gives a breathtaking performance as he tries to survive and find a cure for the virus, while tracking down any fellow survivors and trying not to get attacked by the mutants. As you can imagine, it’s an eventful film!

Children of Men (2006)

Children of men movie poster

The premise of this film is quite simple. Humans have mysteriously become infertile and society is quickly (and not so quietly) dying out. There are less natural disasters and more quiet moments of fear, but Children of Men still has plenty of action. When a woman is believed to be pregnant, it becomes a symbol of hope for society… and the film follows a group of people as they do whatever it takes to stay alive. 

World War Z (2013)

World War Z Movie Poster

Brad Pitt spending a nearly 2 hour movie trying to stop a zombie pandemic, and looking amazing doing it? That’s why you need to watch World War Z. Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a former United Nations agent who is assigned to gather clues about how to stop zombies from taking over the planet – guided by his duty to his job and need to protect his family. This movie is based on the 2006 novel World War Z, which you should also check out! If Brad Pitt can’t make the apocalypse fun who can?

28 Days Later (2002)

28 days later movie poster

This film hits a bit close to home in 2021, as it centers around four individuals trying to rebuild their life after a contagious virus hits and destroys society as they once knew it. Before there was Bird Bo or The Quiet Place, there was 28 Days Later… as this film shows the survivors trying to cope with their losses while avoiding the zombies that could possibly infect them. Among many, many other things. Some critics even say that it revived the zombie genre all the way back in 2002!

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Best Of Best of Movies Featured Scary Movies and Series

The Best Supernatural Horror Streaming Now

Updated March 19th 2021

Have you been endlessly clicking through each of your streaming services looking for the best supernatural horror movies and series? Look no further as we have taken the time to watch them all and select the best supernatural horror currently streaming on HULU, NETFLIX, and AMAZON PRIME. You won’t find slasher films in this list because we prefer the supernatural. Included but not limited to hauntings, possessions, monsters, and complete and total psychological mind f#$%ks. We’ll keep updating so you don’t have to mindlessly scroll through endless movie lists like the zombie you might be someday.

Best Supernatural Horror on HULU

  1. The Wretched

75% Tomatometer “The atmosphere is eerie and there’s a nice twist I did not see coming.” Staci Layne Wilson

A young boy begins the journey of navigating not only his parent’s divorce but also fighting the old witch that has possessed the next-door neighbors. Great story and very well executed with a classic twist in the end. Like witch horror movies? So do we and here is our best of witch horror list.

  1. Pyewacket

82% Tomatometer “The director is out for blood, and while this is a slow-burn affair that craftily bides its time until just the proper moment to unleash a flurry of dexterously ominous thrills, the craven wickedness of it all is portentously intoxicating.” Sara Michelle Fetters 

The angst of a teenage girl mixed with a bumpy relationship with her mother leads to grim things. Out for blood, the young girl performs an ancient death curse. Whose demise will it really end in?

  1. Lights out

76% Tomatometer “A lean, mean scare-machine, and a surprise contender for horror of the year. Seek it out. Then, for God’s sake, buy a bedside lamp.” Simon Crook

Rebecca could never tell fact from fiction in the dark as a child, and now her young brother faces the same problem. A supernatural entity has come to torment the two holding a strange attachment to their mother.

  1. Thelma

93% Tomatometer “Thelma is a wonderfully composed work, one that involves you at a pace of its own.” Rhys Tarling

A college student experiences a series of extreme seizures resulting in new supernatural abilities. Her new powers are dangerous and frightening, seemingly triggered by her love for another student. (In Norwegian, only has English subtitles)

  1. Welcome to Mercy

70% Tomatometer “A rare horror movie whose creators seriously represent both sides of a dilemma, and is therefore more mature than it seems at first glance.” Simon Abrams

Madaline visits a convent and learns she is on her way to becoming the Antichrist. She must work together with her friend August to confront and fight and demons inside of her.

Best Supernatural Horror on NETFLIX

  1. The Ritual

74% Tomatometer “It is a haunting film, with immaculate direction, impressive creature design, as well as well-acted and well-realised characters.” Adi Pramana

After a death in their group, four friends go for a hike through the Scandinavian wilderness. When they become lost in the forest, a series of evil and mysterious events plague the travelers.

  1. His House

100% Tomatometer “His House is a terrifying debut that breathes a fresh voice into the haunted-house subgenre.” Robert Daniels

A refugee couple from South Sudan have just escaped the horrors of their world, only to be thrown into another. Evil hides in the corners of their new English town life.

  1. Girl on the Third Floor

84% Tomatometer “Stevens shows that he is ready to earn his chops in the directors chair and it’s easy to get excited about what he plans to tackle next. Girl on the Third Floor has a lot of heart and some of it might be bleeding out right on the living room floor.” Ryan Larson

A couple moves into a house with plans to renovate it. The house has other plans though. 

  1. Apostle

78% Tomatometer “Evans departs from his usual action fare to weave a gripping story centered around unique Pagan-like mythology steeped in blood and sacrifice. It’s folk horror, but with a new level of brutality and viscera unlike most of its ilk.” Meagan Navarro

Thomas Richardson comes home to discover that his sister has been kidnapped by a cult. Thomas infiltrates the cult and learns of the true evil lurking within it.

  1. Polaroid

The critics hated it but we really enjoyed it so it’s on our list. Give it 15 minutes and you decide if it really is that rottne!

A highschool girl who has an innocent interest in photography finds a vintage polaroid camera and begins to experiment with it. But the people who have their picture taken with the camera are mysteriously met with a sudden and gruesome death.

  1. Little Evil

92% Tomatometer “Little Evil is fast-paced, funny, and more clever than you think it will be.” Eddie Strait 

This one has a comedy twist but who doesn’t love a horror comedy? A newlywed couple is enjoying their life with their five-year-old son who may or may not be the Antichrist.

Best Supernatural Horror on AMAZON PRIME

  1. Annabelle: Creation

71% Tomatometer “It’s perhaps one of the most exciting connective twists I’ve seen in a horror film.” Jordy Sirkin

Based on the famous haunted Annabelle doll. A nun and 6 orphaned girls are welcomed into a new California home. The owner’s 7-year-old daughter had passed away in that home a few years earlier, leaving a mysterious doll behind in her bedroom. One of the curious orphans discovers it and the evil inside of it.

  1. Devil

50% Tomatometer  This is another one where we watched and really enjoyed it. Critics be damned for messing with the devil in an elevator. “A taut, expert and engrossing thriller with sense of visual restraint that is refreshing in this age of abhorrent overexposure.” David Keyes

5 strangers are on a normal elevator ride until it gets stuck in the Philidelphia office tower. Their normal ride turns dark when they learn that the Devil is among them.

  1. It

86% Tomatometer “In the end, Muschietti’s film is a big, fat, gorgeously produced love letter to King’s epic novel.” Sara Michelle Fetters

Based on Stephen King’s novel, this movie follows the journey of seven young outcasts. They meet the evilest ancient being out there that emerges from the depths of the sewers every 27 years. They all must overcome their fears to banish the clown, Pennywise.

  1. Midsommar

83% Tomatometer “Ari Aster’s approach to horror filmmaking seeps into your subconsciousness with great effect, lingering like an uninvited guest.” Wenlei Ma

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/midsommar

A young couple struggling with their relationship decide to go on a trip to a Swedish festival. It turns into a nightmare when the locals show their true colors.

  1. Possum

90% Tomatometer “[Possum’s] shiver-inducing, claustrophobic, hauntingly brilliant nightmare fuel, powered by an engagingly disturbing central performance from Sean Harris.” Joey Keogh

A puppeteer has to relive his childhood nightmares and past secrets.

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The Best Witch Horror Films – This is Why You Should Not Mess With Witches!

What’s really so horrifying about witches? Is it the stereotypical vision of the green old hag with a hooked nose, chanting foreign words over a bubbling cauldron? Or is it the idea that beings who have an extraordinary power can choose to curse the unwitting among us? The common concept of witches that we see in movies and books, or heard from overtly religious sources, is that they have access to some kind of dark power or force that they have the ability to manipulate for their own purposes. The fear is derived from the idea that we don’t have complete control over our own lives, that someone or perhaps something out there is pulling the strings and directing us to our doom. What do witches do anyway? Are they summoning demons for their own benefit, or to send them to possess another person? These kinds of questions are what led nineteen men and women to be accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials–unlike common belief, the accused were hung by the neck until dead.

The modern concept of witches shows that they aren’t actually the old, ugly, and hook-nosed women like the folklore might have you believe. They aren’t even technically evil–at least not in the traditional sense–what was and is still often considered evil is actually simply self-serving. Witches can be both incredibly beautiful and good-natured, like Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, or Cordelia from American Horror Story: Coven or it can go the other was as seen in these movies. Moral of the story, whether a witch is good or bad, you might not want to mess with them. After all, there is a reason why witches are so often cast as the bad guys in horror movies–the ability to summon demons through the use of black magic isn’t exactly a calming image!

The Wretched (2019)

The Wretched Witch Horror Film

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8305806/

Rotten Tomatoes: 74%

In this witch horror film, a defiant teenage boy is sent to live with his father for the summer on the coast. Things are rocky from the beginning when he is forced to meet his father’s new girlfriend. It only get’s worse though as he quickly discovers something is not right in the neighborhood. At first, it is strange noises and unusual sightings. Then his new neighbors begin to act strangely. When their young boy disappears and they act as though he never existed he realizes something far more sinister has occurred.

At first, no one believes him as he has pushed away his father and new friends. So he does what any caring teenage neighborhood boy would do. He takes matters into his own hands. Once he discovers there is witchcraft afoot he convinces a local girl to help him out. They investigate and ultimately try to take on the witch.

This tale has great twists and turns that we will not get into so no spoiler alerts here. This was an indie horror film that quickly rose to the top 10 on Netflix in 2020. You would never know it was low budget as the writing, acting and effects are all wonderfully done. Highly recommended and enjoy the the horror!

Pumpkinhead (1988)

Pumpkin Head Movie Poster

imdb.com/title/tt0095925/

Rotten Tomatoes: 68%

It’s not an uncommon theme in the horror genre – a grieving parent loses their child in a devastating way and goes to desperate measures to get revenge on those who wronged them. This is just what happened in Pumpkinhead, when Ed Harley visits a witch and begs for her help in getting revenge on his young son’s killer. Throw in one disfigured corpse and a bit of blood magic, and all hell breaks loose… literally.

The witch summons a gigantic, demonic monster that goes on a killing spree, and unapologetically refuses to help even after Harley comes to his senses and begs her to stop Pumpkinhead. She knew exactly what she was doing, and was as much of a witch in the film as she was a modern-day troll for all those seeking vengeance.

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Sleepy Hollow Movie Poster

imdb.com/title/tt0162661/

Rotten Tomatoes: 77%

Before Johnny Depp was doing whatever it is he does now, he was playing an NYC policeman trying to uncover the brutal beheadings of a bunch of town people. It wasn’t a witch doing the beheading, but it was an undercover witch who summoned the Headless Horseman to finish off all those who had betrayed her. Vengeance is a common theme when it comes to witches, it seems, as Lady Van Tassel sold her soul to the devil after people turned on her as a child after the death of her parents. 

Moral of the story? Always be kind to others and show them mercy… because you never know when they’re a secret witch who will make heads roll.

The Conjuring (2013)

The Conjuring Movie Poster

imdb.com/title/tt1457767/

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%

Many of the witches in pop culture are pretty easy on the eyes, like Sabrina Spellman or Melisandre from Game of Thrones (at least, with her disguise on). Bathsheba from The Conjuring is not one of them. This witch is not only terrifying but extremely evil. Between being accused of witchcraft in the 1800’s, sacrificing her week-old child to the devil and killing herself at 3:07AM (also known as the devil’s hour,) she’s about as bad of a witch as you can find.

She haunts and kills all those who reside in her old house, including the Perron family in the very first film of The Conjuring universe. Bathsheba is a major villain in one of the best horror films of the 2010s, but we definitely wouldn’t want to come across her in our new house.

The Witch (2016)

The Witch Movie Poster

imdb.com/title/tt6674752/

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%

Unlike a lot of horror films these days… The Witch is set in the 1630s and markets itself as a “New England folktale.” It follows a family banished from their Puritan plantation town over a religious dispute. As they set themselves up in a farm near a secluded forest – which honestly, doesn’t sound like a great idea at all – they start to encounter a lot of spooky things, mostly related to their eldest daughter Thomasin.

It’s a great firsthand look at a young girl being accused of witchcraft… especially since she very well might just be one. 

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project Movie Poster

imdb.com/title/tt0185937/

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%

Sure, this film may be a bit outdated now… but it was a huge “thing” when it was released back in 1999. The found-footage concept has been used by a ton of other horror blockbusters, including Paranormal Activity, and even 20 years later, kids still don’t know that you shouldn’t follow a supposed witch into a creepy forest. It can’t be said enough… don’t mess with witches!

Maybe we missed a few horror films that feature the dark magic side of witches? We’re always open to suggestions so find us on social media or add a comment and we’ll update this until we have the ultimate witches in horror movies list!

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The Haunting of Hill House & The Haunting of Bly Manor: Why You Should Stop Comparing Them (Spoilers)

I feel as if, in general, I’m a pretty easy going person, I don’t like to cause a stir and I generally stay out of heated discussions. After all, I know where I stand on certain issues, so why stress out about a conflicting opinion from someone else? We’re all allowed to have an opinion, that’s our right in life as human beings; unfortunately, a lot of you horror buffs out there have been actively comparing The Haunting of Hill House (2018) and The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020), the two seasons Netflix original series The Haunting, but you need to stop and here’s why:

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Aren’t Hill House and Bly Manor Part of the Same Series?

While these two seasons of The Haunting series do have a lot in common, they’re from the same showrunner, they both have some of the same cast, and their names are awfully similar—but I would consider this series to be in the same vein as American Horror Story (2011- Present), Black Mirror (2011 – Present), or Two Sentence Horror Stories (2019 – Present) as they share the similarity of standalone storylines. American Horror Story features a new storyline with each new season, but we saw in one of the most recent seasons that they are intricately interwoven together in pretty incredible ways, but they feature the same cast and same creators—I can honestly say that I enjoy certain seasons of the show more than others, but I cannot in good conscience that I can compare them in any way. Just like Black Mirror has some episodes that have a more riveting storyline than others, as does Two Sentence Horror Stories.

It’s fair to argue that because these shows share a name or even some common elements that they are even remotely comparable. The truth of the matter though, is that these shows are simply the first two parts of an anthology series where Flanagan and his creative team are tackling one iconic horror novel at a time. So yes, while they have similarities, even Flanagan himself has asserted that they both serve as standalone storylines:

The Haunting of Bly Manor is the second installment in The Haunting anthology. We started with Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, and this follow-up season is a standalone adaptation based on the ghost stories of Henry James. Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw is one of the most influential ghost stories ever written. What struck me as a really wonderful opportunity for this season was Henry James wrote other ghost stories as well, most of which have never been adaptation. The opportunity to go further into Henry James’ library, to look at some of his other ghost stories, to try to find a way to bring them all together, it was a challenge that we really couldn’t say no to.

Mike Flanagan in Behind the Scenes: From Hill House to Bly Manor

Since we’re seeing Flanagan return as a writer and a director for the opening episode, we’re also seeing the same setting where we get a lot of the same wide shots and creepy ghosts hiding in the background of a lot of otherwise normal scenes. A common question I have seen, in the horror communities within which I lurk, addresses the concept of why they made the second season of this show a completely new story, rather than continuing on with the storyline of The Haunting of Hill House. Flanagan had a great response in regards to this when he was quoted as having said:

It was important to me that we told that story to its conclusion in the first season. I didn’t want to cynically repeat ourselves, and the actors didn’t want to either … this frees us up because, in theory, in this anthology format, every season can be its own exploration of another classic piece of horror literature. Actors can stay or go depending on their preference and their availability. That opens it up to a new cast and new chances for existing actors. I love that format. It would be quite a disappointment to have to revisit the Crains. It would rob them of the closure they got at the end of that season.

Mike Flanagan in an interview with Gamesradar+ in 2019

So should you expect to see some of the same characters, or even related storylines in The Haunting of Bly Manor? No, no you should not, since they are standalone stories based on the stories of two different authors, they are unique in that sense. Should you compare whether one is scarier than the other? Also no. Again, these stories are unique from one another, which means the storyline and genres are different. With respect to The Haunting of Hill House, it was adapted from the original Shirley Jackson book of the same name whereas The Haunting of Bly Manor was adapted loosely based around the novella by Henry James entitled The Turn of the Screw, with elements of other short stories also written by James.

Is Bly Manor as Scary as Hill House?

Well, that really depends on how you define the word scary—are you the type of horror fan that likes jump scares or blood and guts kind of violence and gore? Or are you the type of horror fan that can appreciate a deeply twisted storyline that gives you that sickeningly painful feeling in your gut and with each revelation, pulls you deeper into an unsettlingly and delicious feeling of dread?

It seems like everyone with a Twitter account has turned into a TV critic these days and they have been flocking to their social media accounts in droves to talk about how The Haunting of Bly Manor is not only lacking the scares and thrilling moments, but that it’s straight boring compared to The Haunting of Hill House. I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I think they’re missing the essential point that it’s not meant to be the same type of frightening as The Haunting of Hill House. I get it, there are few jump scares in the second season, so those who are more of a fan of slashers and violent torture porn, then they’re not going to appreciate it in the ways that it is scary.

There are fewer ghosts in Bly Manor, and they definitely don’t pursue victims in the same manner as those in Hill House. No, Bly Manor is a slow-burn kind of horror that continued to build over each episode—it fed off of a more intense and intellectual fear that leaves the audience with a feeling of being stripped bare to the unseen forces in the world and a feeling that we are so small and meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Bly Manor is the type of cosmic gothic ghost story that Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft would have been proud to include in their genre of horror.

The Haunting of Hill House (2018)

The Netflix series that debuted in 2018 began, unbeknownst to the fan base it would obtain, as an anthology series with the first season using the famous Shirley Jackson novel The Haunting of Hill House as inspiration for a macabre and twisted tale of a close yet dysfunctional family. Flanagan of course takes quite a few creative liberties when adapting the book to script, as an example, when he completely abandons Jackson’s original plot surrounding a group of paranormal investigators who have come to investigate ghosts at Hill House. Even beyond that, however, Flanagan somehow takes the tale of a haunted house and turns it into a commentary on how grief and trauma manifest for each of us personally and haunt us the way a ghost might. These traumas that Flanagan addresses within his telling of Hill House come across as impenetrable walls, barriers that forever keep you trapped in eternal, yet self-inflicted pain—Hill House, therefore, becomes a metaphor for how some people escape from their past trauma, where others will be ceaselessly be victimized by it. The difference between the two is a strong support system and the will to overcome—this is illustrated perfectly by Flanagan who shows how the Crain family reacts when they begin losing their family one by one, finally realizing that they have some semblance of control over the final outcome. Their choice, in the end, is to save their family regardless of whether it puts themselves in danger.

The Crain family moves into the dilapidated Hill House; Hugh and Olivia, are the loving parents of five interesting and unique children—Steven, Shirley, Theodora, and the youngest—a pair of twins—Nell and Luke. The parents, set to repair and the flip the house, are less receptive to the baleful nature of Hill House, but as the children explore their new temporary home they become aware of things that they had never before experienced, but that children are uniquely equipped to encounter. The innocence of these children makes them vulnerable to dark spirits, hallucinatory experiences, and the discovery of rooms that simply shouldn’t exist within the house. Of course, the adults chalk this up to vivid imaginations and generalized anxieties, but when their mother Olivia begins to be affected by the house as well, things begin to turn dangerous—but the story is shrouded in mystery, the kind that never fails to pull you back in, and it all starts at the end of a tragedy the kind of non-linear timeline that not only keeps people guessing about what happened, but also how it happened in the first place.

The Haunting of Hill House (2018) Official Trailer

Adapted from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (1959)

Shirley Jackson’s original novel The Haunting of Hill House (1959) is actually based on four strangers—not a family—and they all come together at Hill House, a house that was long believed to be haunted. These strangers come under the guidance of Dr. Montague, a man who is hoping to scientifically prove the existence of spirits and specters. This horrifying tale takes the reader on a supernatural and psychological thrill-ride as we see the story progress over an incredibly haunted summer for these poor strangers who only wish to uncover the truth. It’s as if the house itself wishes to be left alone in its own misery.

While it’s true that the novel and the show are incredibly different beasts, there are some common elements that translated across the formats. These strangers share the same names as the Crain family, but it’s also true that Eleanor (Nell), the sensitive child in Hill House is also supernaturally inclined within the book. Her sense of the house being evil upon arriving at the house is also eerily similar between the book and the show.

This by no means makes the book and the show any more related, but it does show that Flanagan did take inspiration from the original novel in more ways than just the superficial elements, which is more than what most adaptations can boast.

The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)

The Haunting of Bly Manor is an American gothic romance, which means that it is steeped in mystery, the supernatural, the horrific, and a love story. As noted before, based loosely on the novella Turn of the Screw, but they also took elements from other horror short stories by the same author and essentially crafted their own story with all of the new puzzle pieces. What they created was a tragically beautiful and meaningful love story, that still pulled off the frightening elements that also made it a horror story.

Set in the 80s, Bly Manor houses its own share of ghosts and ghouls—and they’re far from boring, in fact, it wouldn’t be far from the truth to say that the ghosts are what elevate these shows from being simple dramas about family, love, loss, and grief. At the beginning of Bly Manor, we see Dani a young American woman being hired as an au pair by the wealthy uncle of two young orphans—Miles and Flora. By the time we introduced to these two adorably tragic children, there is already a sense of things being wrong… we just don’t know what.

The Burden of Our Own Emotional Limitations

We slowly get to know the household staff that are paid to take care of and effectively raise Miles and Flora, in place of their uncle, Henry Wingrave, who is now their only living relative. It’s clear that Wingrave loves the children, but it’s as if he doesn’t want to get stuck taking care of them when he still has his business to run, and Bly Manor has a history of trapping people within. It’s quite a commentary on how we each get stuck in our own lives—not necessarily within places, but in torturous memories, and the grievous emotions that mark the worst moments in our lives. We see that Wingrave is running away from the responsibility of the children in much of the same way that Dani is running from the death of her fiancé, for which she feels responsible, but we soon see that she is haunted by him as he follows her, reminding her of the sheer weight of her guilt. Wingrave too, is trapped by the guilt of his brother’s death, especially due to the fact that he had a lurid affair with his brother’s wife, which may also add to the obligation that he feels to care for his brother’s children.

Wingrave’s personal assistant, Peter Quint, is also stuck—he’s stuck with the trauma he endured from a negligent and abusive upbringing—and despite the fact that he isn’t a terrible person underneath all of that, he comes across as a villain throughout the show. Owen, the cook responsible for feeding the children and staff, finds himself in Bly taking care of his sick mother, who is suffering from dementia, and she proves to be a significant burden on him emotionally. His guilt lies within the fact that he not only resents his mother for her condition, but he also grieves her loss despite her still being present in his life—this is something that anyone who has ever dealt with a family member suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s can sympathize with. Owen too is trapped in Bly, at least for as long as his mother remains alive. The housekeeper at Bly Manor, Hannah Grose is revealed to have died at the beginning of the season when we begin to see all of the pieces of the puzzle realized together as the picture finally becomes whole. He torture in this circumstance is that her life was devoted to holding the family together in the face of wanting to follow her own pursuits, half-aware of her own fate and half-unaware as she is taunted with the fact that she can never leave and live the life with Owen that she so desires.

Regardless of whether or not these people are able to leave the manor, we see them trapped within their own circumstances, they struggle hard to prevail over them, but in the end realize that their fate is inevitable. This brings that hard-hitting, existential crisis to heart; that no matter what we do, we will never win, we will never get what we want, and there is no one who can save us from our inescapable ruin…

The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)

Flanagan touches upon grief in a hauntingly beautiful, by bringing you deeply into the lives of his characters and exposing their psychological trauma to the light of day. We’re not just seeing one person’s struggle as noted in the section above, we’re seeing them unfold for everyone involved. This is what makes the story so tragic.

What is a Gothic Romance?

A gothic romance stories have a strong emphasis on the mood that is conveyed to the audience, it should be suspenseful, mysterious, and thrilling—not something that you might expect with a traditional romantic storyline—but at the same time, it should focus strongly on the romance of the characters. This of course is achieved quite fluidly by Flanagan…

What sets Bly Manor apart is that at its heart it’s a love story. It’s a Gothic romance story. When you look at the word ‘romance’ it conjures up images in your mind. Gothic romance means something very, very different, steeped in mystery and doom, incredibly passionate emotions that swung into the darkness of human nature.

Mike Flanagan in Behind the Scenes: From Hill House to Bly Manor

If we take a second look at Bly Manor, we realize that this is set up as a romance from the very beginning, it’s not something that the story simply took upon itself later in the season—this was a deliberate setup that we see from the narrator at the start of the season. We realize only at the end that the narrator is actually an older version of Jamie, telling the story of Bly Manor to Flora Wingrave and company at her wedding reception. It seems strange that Jamie would be telling Flora about her own childhood, but as we find out shortly prior to this revelation, Flora nad her brother Miles had completely forgotten about what transpired at Bly Manor after moving with their uncle to America. Jamie’s relation of this story to her old piecemealed family from Bly is tragic in many ways—because of a forgotten history that to Jamie is ever-present and heartwrenching.

The theme of love in Bly Manor although not necessarily apparent to those who go in expecting cheap thrills in the generic horror fashion, is peppered generously throughout and is undeniable once the end of the story has been reached. Jamie’s own love story with the au pair Dani Clayton was something that she had previously considered something of a horror story, with all of the tragedy, loss, and subsequent grief from Dani’s self-sacrifice in taking the spirit of the faceless ghost into herself in order to save Flora from certain death.

We see Dani’s past, steeped in guilt from the recurrence of the specter with the yellow spectacles, who we find is the ghost of Dani’s fiancé Edmund. Upon facing their pending marriage she finally has the courage to stand up for what she wants for herself and that denying her own sexuality by marrying her childhood best friend will only lead to a lifetime of unhappiness for herself. Dani’s guilt lies in the fact that breaking off the engagement due to not being heterosexual, directly preceded Edmund’s flight from the parked car and directly into the path of a big rig. Despite not wanting to be married to Edmund, the last thing Dani wanted was for him to die and she takes upon herself the blame for his death. Edmund’s ghost shows up as having blindingly yellow glasses because, at the instant of his death, he saw the truck coming rendering the reflection of the headlights upon his spirit from then on.

There are many other love stories that take place within the context of Bly Manor; Peter Quint, and Rebecca Jessel which is another horror story in and of itself, as Peter is abusive to Rebecca. Translating even after his death by the hand of the Lady in the Lake, when he possesses Rebecca and walks her into the lake so they can be together again, which of course leads everyone to believe Rebecca had committed suicide. The housekeeper Hanna and the cook Owen who develop an obvious fondness for each other after Hannah had already passed away (thanks in no small part to Peter Quint, who upon possessing Miles, shoves her into the well), which leads to broken hearts for both of them.

If there’s one thing that I hope fans take away from this season of Bly Manor, I think it’s that wonderful connection between a great love story and a great ghost story. The two are really the same thing, how each of us when we fall in love is kind of giving birth to a new ghost, something that’s gonna follow us for the rest of our lives. I hope that that intermingling of a ghost story and a love story is really impactful for people, and I think by the end of this season the line between the two is pretty much obliterated entirely.

Mike Flanagan in Behind the Scenes: From Hill House to Bly Manor
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Adapted from Henry James The Turn of the Screw (1898)

Although Flanagan wasn’t the first creator to adapt Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw (1898), he and his creative team did the best job so far. It was previously adapted for television when BBC produced Ghost Story: The Turn of the Screw (2009), which itself also took a few creative liberties. It’s worth mentioning that this infamous ghost story has also inspired live performances throughout Europe as well.

So while there are valid connections between the two seasons of The Haunting anthology, they are actually standalone presentations that merit a separate analysis, completely removed from the other. I think Mike Flanagan really said it best in this Behind the Scenes: From Hill House to Bly Manor:

From Hill House to Bly Manor – Behind the Scenes

Final Thoughts…

When we finally meet Viola Willoughby, in The Haunting of Bly Manor, the ghost with no face, she goes from being an evil spirit to being a sympathetic character in a way—a woman who in life was beautiful, a good mother, and very much loved by her husband, but stricken with sickness and too stubborn to die. Her sister, who coveted what Viola possessed eventually choked her to death in an effort to take over Viola’s duty as a mother and wife. Viola, still too stubborn to leave the life that she had desperately yearned for, remained as a spirit, locked in a trunk of her nicest possessions, which she had left for her daughter to inherit at the appropriate age. Her sister again covets what her sister only possesses in death, unlocks the trunk, and is, in turn, choked to death by Viola’s ghost. Viola ends up trapped within her own home and over time, her spirit forgets everything except for the one thing that drove her in the first place—the drive to see her daughter and once again be reunited with her keeps her ghost coming back, long after she has even forgotten what she looks like. As tragedy prevails throughout the ages, anyone that has passed within the house is too stuck there with her, forgetting themselves and their own faces as well. So in a sense, the ghosts of Bly Manor do not haunt the living, they are haunted by the living, knowing that they at least have the opportunity to escape from the prison that the manor has become.

I can say with confidence that having experienced trauma in my life, that living a life trapped with sorrow, grief, or a devouring sort of guilt is bad enough, but the concept presented in Bly Manor, where we see that grief breach the veil between life and death, bringing that unending tragedy into eternity. Twist that knife a bit more while you’re at it.

Sincerely, to compare these two masterpieces is to do neither of them justice, as to be appreciated fully they need to be appreciated separately. So when you watch them again, like I’m about to, remember that they were never meant to be compared to one another in the first place.

Works Cited

Chitwood, Adam. “’The Haunting of Hill House’ Creator Mike Flanagan Explains How ‘Bly Manor’ Is Different.” Collider, 28 Sept. 2020, collider.com/haunting-of-bly-manor-netflix-vs-haunting-of-hill-house-difference-explained/.

Flanagan, Mike, director. Behind the Scenes: From Hill House to Bly Manor. Youtube: Behind the Scenes: From Hill House to Bly Manor, Netflix, 28 Sept. 2020, youtu.be/LRE3PzK_vUE.

Hill, Libby. “You’re Right. ‘Bly Manor’ Isn’t as Scary as ‘Hill House.’ It’s Scarier. – Spoilers.” IndieWire, IndieWire, 14 Oct. 2020, www.indiewire.com/2020/10/bly-manor-scary-hill-house-scarier-netflix-1234592826/.

Romaine, Lindsey. “All of THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE Parallels in BLY MANOR.” Nerdist, 13 Oct. 2020, nerdist.com/article/all-the-haunting-of-hill-house-parallels-in-bly-manor/.

Shepherd, Jack. “How The Haunting of Bly Manor and Hill House Are Connected.” SFX Magazine, GamesRadar+, 9 Oct. 2020, www.gamesradar.com/how-the-haunting-of-bly-manor-and-hill-house-are-connected/.