Hill House vs. Bly Manor: Which ‘The Haunting’ is Better?

Hello, horror fans. Happy spooky month!

If you are anything like me, then you have spent the last two years since The Haunting of Hill House came out anxiously waiting for the horror anthology series to return and probably binge-watched the entirety of The Haunting of Bly Manor by now.

Gonna be frank for a second here: The Haunting of Hill House is my absolute favorite TV show of all time, and I went to Bly Manor with incredibly high expectations, while also a little afraid that it wasn’t going to live up to what Hill House did. But don’t worry, I was not disappointed. Even though both series are different are both amazing in their own right, one of them is (in my own personal opinion) better in some respects than the other. So let’s break it down.

Warning: this next section is FULL of spoilers. If you have not seen Hill House or Bly Manor in their entirety, I suggest you avert your eyes, unless you love spoilers- if so then do as you wish.

 

the haunting of hill house | Tumblr | House on a hill, Haunting, Hills

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Plot

Both The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor have incredibly intricate plots with many moving parts. On Hill House we have a family moving into a mansion in order to flip it and resale it, only that mansion turns out to be haunted. In Bly Manor we have a young au pair moving into an (also haunted) mansion on the English countryside to take care of a pair of orphan twins.

In Hill House we follow two separate timelines, one where the Crains are living in Hill House and dealing with its many ghosts, and another years later where they all have gone their separate ways and are reckoning with their days in Hill House and the trauma that if left them with. And, boy, was that a lot of trauma.

The back and forth between these two timelines is one of the things that works great in the show. By the end of the first episode, you know that, yes, the house is haunted (its a horror show after all), and that this somehow led to the deaths of Oliva and (eventually) Nell. As the series unfolds, you get to see just how life altering the events of those months were and why the characters made the choices that they did.

In Bly Manor we are introduced to the story by an anonymous storyteller. With her narration, we get to know the characters (both living and dead), their backstories, and the role they play in the overall story of Bly Manor. The timeline of this season is also far from linear. We jump from the “present-day” at Bly Manor, we explore the characters and ghosts’ past, and we even go through memory loops.

While both plot structures and overall stories are amazing, there is something about the subtlety of The Haunting of Hill House that really gets me. In Bly Manor, while there are still moments that made my jaw drop, you can see most of them coming. This is not a bad thing, and it’s intentional in some respects, as it’s more about the build up than the plot twists. For example, the anonymous storyteller: it’s obvious from her insistence at the beginning that this is not her story, and yet it kinda is her story, even though she wasn’t lying because, if anything, the story is Dani’s. So while the reveal of her being Jamie wasn’t really a “gotcha” moment, it was still a little bit of a surprise and very emotional.

In comparison, the Red Room reveal in Hill House is a thing of genius, especially because it stares you in the face the entire time. There are so many throwaway lines in the show about this room, like Shirley saying “dancing and the red room” and then seeing Theo dancing in what is revealed later to actually be the Red Room. Or, Olivia thinking that Steve was kidding when he suggested that Luke might be in the treehouse. All of that, plus the door to the treehouse being literally red, and all of the different versions of the Red Room having the same window in the same place should’ve been an indication that something was off. But still, the reveal hits like a truck, unless you actually saw this coming. And if you did, hats off to you.

 

The Haunting of Hill House Season 1 Alternate Ending | POPSUGAR Entertainment UK

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Point to: The Haunting of Hill House

 

Characters

Hill House, more than anything, is a story about a family, and the characterization of the Crains depends a lot on the role they play in it. But at the same time, they all have their own distinct personalities and are very different from each other.

In Bly Manor, we get to know the characters more or less in unison, since Dani meets them all at the same time as we do. These characters are also not necessarily related to one another by blood, but they all care for the others and kind of end up making their own family at Bly.

In both seasons, we have characters that we love and root for, others that we hate (looking at you Poppy and Peter Quint), and others that- despite their bad choices and how they hurt others sometimes- we can’t help but sympathize with them. But all of them, even the bad ones, are constructed with a lot of humanity and nuance. They all bring something crucial to the stories and are great on the individual level, and in how they interact with the rest of the characters and story. In conclusion, every single character on these shows is amazing and I love them all very much. I think they’re all winners here.

Point to: Both

 

The Ghosts

In both seasons, there are real and metaphorical ghosts. There are those ghosts of people who have died and are now trapped in Hill House and Bly Manor, and there are those ghosts whom serve as the characters’ own emotional wounds, chasing them around and haunting them.

 

Netflix's The Haunting Of Bly Manor: 5 Spookiest Moments From The First Trailer - CINEMABLEND

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But if I had to choose which ghosts were better, I would have to say The Haunting of Bly Manor‘s ghosts. Both seasons go into the backstories of the ghosts, but while in Hill House some of the ghosts are just there to scare you, the ghosts of Bly Manor were a little bit more explained and felt more intentional in general. We also get a whole episode dedicated to Viola Willoughby (the lady in the lake), how those people who she dragged to the lake now haunt Bly Manor, and how the little kid she murdered is the one moving the dolls in the dollhouse.

(Kudos to the very tall and very scary man in Hill House, though).

Point to: The Haunting of Bly Manor

 

Episode 5

Both “The Bent-Neck Lady” and “The Altar of the Dead” have something in common, and that is that they will blow your mind.

In episode 5 of Hill House, “The Bent-Neck Lady,” we follow Nellie Crain from her childhood in Hill House, to her short-lived marriage to Arthur, eventual death, and of course her being haunted by The Bent-Neck Lady, even after she’s far from Hill House. But at the end of the episode, it’s revealed that the ghost that has been hunting her throughout her entire life is none other than herself. This makes it just so much more terrifying and tragic because she inadvertently caused her own trauma and death.

On a similar note, in Bly Manor‘s, “The Altar of the Death,” we follow Hannah Grose while she’s stuck on a loop of her own memories and trying to find out why. At the end of this episode, it is revealed that Miles (while possessed by Peter Quint) threw Hannah into the well and that she has in fact been dead since the moment we met her. 

Both episodes are genius and shocking, but the Hannah reveal wasn’t as unexpected as the bent-neck lady. Hannah refused to eat or drink anything and she seemed to appear and disappear constantly, and while it wasn’t a huge plot-twist to learn that she was dead, it was still an incredibly well-written episode. But, I still have to go for the Bent-Neck Lady reveal.

 

The One 'Hill House' Moment That Still Haunts Me Is Also The Most Heartbreaking Of The Entire Season

image via bustle

 

Point to: The Haunting of Hill House

 

Spookiness level

As someone who has been watching horror movies before an appropriate age, I have a pretty high tolerance for horror. Even then, I think it is fair to say that both series are more tragic than they are actually scary. They both have a quiet type of horror that doesn’t rely on jump scares and leaves you more worried about a ghostly personification of your past and pain haunting you forever than it does actual ghosts. But again, it is indeed a horror show, so there are bound to be moments that will make you jump in your seat and have you believing that the totally normal shadows in your room at night are ghosts.

Some of the terror of Hill House fades as the season goes when you find out that The Bent-Neck Lady, arguably the scariest ghost of the season, turns out to be Nellie — you really can’t be that afraid of her after that. But in Bly Manor, even after learning more about the lady on the lake, she is still as terrifying as her grip is strong. Just the thought of accidentally coming across her path and her dragging you into the bottom of the lake by the neck gives me chills. For what I’ve seen on social media, many people find Hill House scarier, but I’ll respectfully agree to disagree.

 

Ghost The Haunting Of Bly Manor GIF - Ghost TheHauntingOfBlyManor Creepy - Discover & Share GIFs

image via netflix

 

Point to: The Haunting of Bly Manor

 

Bonus Points Round

the one-shot episode

Episode six of The Haunting of Hill House is shot to look like the entire episode is one singular take. That requires an incredible amount of technical skill and the ability from the actors to not mess up their lines. It was so complicated to do, that even with many fans begging for a reprise of this technic, Mike Flanagan, the series’ creator and director, refused to repeat it for Bly Manor. It deserves all the praise it gets.

Bonus point for: The Haunting of Hill House

 

Monologues

Yes, both seasons have it, but those of Hill House are incredible. You get so lost in the characters speaking for what seems like forever that they almost make you forget of all the other things going on in the episode. The delivery of them is great and they have a big emotional punch to them.

Bonus point for: The Haunting of Hill House

 

not traumatizing the children

The events of The Haunting of Hill House left the Crain family incredibly traumatized, and I expected the children from Bly Manor suffer the same fate. Luckily, they were blessed enough to forget everything and grow up blissfully unaware of every bad thing that happened to them there. Yes, they also forgot the good, but at least they are well adapted. The Crain children can’t really say that.

Bonus point for: The Haunting of Bly Manor

 

how much it emotionally destroyed me

If you say that you weren’t emotionally devastated by the end of these shows you are lying.

I mean, the entirety of the Crain family has a tragic story. Oliva’s death, Hugh being unable to connect with his children after the events of Hill House, the Dudley’s losing their children to the house, Luke’s addiction, Nellie’s whole entire life…. It’s just so sad; I can’t even talk about it.

On Bly Manor, we have a fair share of tragedy too. Hannah’s death and the budding romance with Owen being unable to be completed, Jamie and Dani’s relationship also having a tragic end, Rebecca being manipulated into drowning on the lake, the love triangle between Henry, Charlotte, and Dominic… all sad too.

Bonus point for: Both

 

FInal Verdict

Both are, as Flora would say, perfectly splendid! They both came close in terms of points, but in the end The Haunting of Hill House takes the ghostly crown.

 

Nellie Crain | House on a hill, House on haunted hill, Haunting

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Mike Flanagan, thank you. You will be receiving my therapy bill in the mail.

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