Mike Flanagan's The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix are both horror masterpieces. Whereas the first one is a masterclass in jump scares and hidden figures, even reportedly causing some of its viewers to faint, its slow-burning spiritual sequel is a testament to Flanagan's brilliant manipulation of grief as a means to terrorize his audience. Common in both, however, are the abundance of spirits present in every episode.
Both Hauntings have a way of using real-life trauma to enhancing the viewer's fear. Whether it be death, addiction, betrayal, abuse, murder, assault, or infidelity, these themes seep underneath the architecture of each scare. With Flanagan's latest Netflix horror series, Midnight Mass, out and Halloween just around the corner, we decided to take a look at the Haunting series 13 scariest moments. The first eight moments are from The Haunting of Hill House, and the last five from The Haunting of Bly Manor.
The Bent-Neck Lady Reveal
The Bent-Neck Lady in The Haunting of Hill House is one of the freakiest images ever put onto screen in both TV and film, not only because of how the ghost looks, but also because of the context behind it. It represents suicide - tragedy in the most extreme form. Further, it is a symbol of how close the twins were in the series, marking the final separation between the inseparable pair. Not only is it the figure that was haunting Nell Crain her whole life however, but it also turned out to be the figure herself as an adult. When Nell finally hangs herself, she sees all of those events - those hauntings - revisiting them one by one as if she's descending level by level in a hell of her own creation, back in time to her youth until she finally enters the end of her existence. Suddenly, she's gone. The scene leaves some viewers frozen in fear, some shaking in terror. This may just be one of the scenes that caused viewers to faint.
The Final Night at Hill House
Olivia Crain's death is shocking, to say the least. Did she kill herself or did the house kill her? Either way, it was the point of of no return in the stages of her descent into madness - the house has a way of driving its residents insane, as Mr. Dudley the groundskeeper warned the Crains. So when when Hugh Crain grabs the kids to takes them to the car and escape that fateful night, he says something that leaves that seers into the viewers mind: "That's not your mother," to a figure with a lopsided gait, limping and stopping down the hall, attempting to claim her children and keep them together in the house as they're on the way out. In the midst of all this madness, seemingly every ghost in the series begins close on the Crains. This is one of the craziest scenes simply due to the overwhelming abundance of ghosts and the over-the-top nature of Olivia's state
The Ghost of William Hill/The Tall Man
When Luke encounters The Tall Man who we would come to know as Mr. Hill himself, it is one of the most horrific moments in both Hill House and Bly Manor because of the tension that Flanagan fills in the scene to the point of seeming suffocation. Earlier in the series, Luke takes Mr. Hill's hat, which the latter clearly does not like. So after Hugh tucks Luke in bed, Luke hears a clicking noise and footsteps, peeking too see it's Mr. Hill, an exaggeratedly tall figure hovered slightly above the ground, looking for his hat, opening each door with his cane until he finally arrives at Luke and Nell's room. Nell is sound asleep, so Luke hides under his bed, frozen in fear, afraid to even breath - the terror is built up masterfully in this drawn out scene. As Mr. Hill glances under his bed, we see his haunting face.
The storm is not only arguably the most technically astounding accomplishment in TV and film history due to its one shot nature - aside from a few cuts - but also because it has several jump scares as it switches between two time periods seamless due to the extended set of Hill House and the built-in funeral to the side of it. This allows the characters walking into the the hallway of the funeral home to travel back in time as they enter the house on set without CGI. When Luke disappears and no one knows what happens to him for period of time - one of the painful experiences in Luke's youth that would arguably contribute to him becoming an addict (however, that's a controversial and debatable thing to argue because addiction is also a genetic thing that can run in the family) - we see characters at their most vulnerable, making the viewer also driven to the most vulnerable state.
Steven Sees Nellie's Ghost in His Apartment
Steven Crain claims he'd never seen a ghost up until this scene. However, that's entirely untrue because he saw the clock repair man at Hill House, who he always thought was hired by his family, but no one really knew why he was there, repairing a perpetually broken clock. As an adult, he finally knowingly sees a ghost when he runs in to Nell right after she kills herself. This is a scary moment because he's alone in his apartment and the last person he expects to see is his little sister. Further, when he tries to talk to her, she doesn't respond, and makes several inhuman jumps towards him. And then he gets a call right after her visit, informing him that she has killed herself. It's extremely effective screenwriting by Mike Flanagan and sends chills down the viewer's back.
Luke Gets Trapped in the Basement
We may never know who the zombie apparition was in The Haunting or Hill House, unless Mike Flanagan makes a direct sequel set in the same house. That notion almost makes the scene in which Luke gets trapped in the basement more frightening. How did this person before Luke get trapped here? Was there a murder years ago in the house that was left unsolved. An unlucky, former groundskeeper or maid, perhaps? Would Luke have seen the same fate had his siblings not known if he was trapped down there? Regardless of how the corpse got there, the combination of claustrophobia, Luke's fear of almost everything as a kid, especially of being abandoned, and our lost zombie ghost chasing Luke with no room to run, even coming so close as to tear his shirt, are perfect ingredients for a chilling scene that will make viewers want to crawl out of their skin. Poor Luke.
Nell Haunts Olivia in the Morgue
Nell has a knack for haunting after she dies. When she haunts her mother, Olivia, it's almost equally as terrifying as when she haunts Steven. Now, she's on the a morgue table, seemingly having been performed on and prepared for the funeral already by Theo. It's a premonition, but it's also, in a sense, a flash-forward. That work Theo does - and part of the work that morticians do - is close to wire the jaw shut. So when Nell wakes up, she's pale and dead-looking, sitting up off of the cold, metal table, and attempts to talk to her mother, but she can't, so she snaps the wires off so she can. It's a painful scene to watch, not only because of the physical pain and fear involved, but also because of the grief and trauma. Olivia tried to do everything to prevent her children from dying, and she always wanted to keep them together as a family, but the house made sure that didn't happen and systematically broke them apart.
Nell Screams While Shirley and Theo Drive
When Nell screams in the car, it's yet another Nell haunting scene involved with her siblings, and perhaps the biggest jump scare of the series and the fasted burning appearance of her apparitions. One can argue she didn't want her sisters to bicker. Regardless of the intention behind her scream, she almost caused the car to run off the road, and some viewers to have a heart attack in the process. It was the last thing audiences expected in a banal scene about sisters arguing. Nell's facial features also look extremely exaggerated, with her mouth over-stretched, adding to the scene's frightening moment.
The Ghost in the Attic of Bly Manor
When Flora Wingrave plays in the attic and sings that tune she loves to sing - which fans got a preview of during the marketing of the film through a creepy interactive phone call - there's a horribly disfigured mannequin-like figure that attempts hum along with her. Its face is almost gone like The Lady in the Lake's, and it attempts to crawl towards the girl, fighting for a life, a light that isn't on inside of it anymore. A lost soul that the child is overtly indifferent to. She seems to know more about the secrets of the manor than the other residents. It's one of the first scares we get to see out of the novella upon which The Haunting of Bly Manor is based by Henry James, titled "The Turn of the Screw." And it's...not exactly "perfectly splendid."
Peter Quint's Death
When Peter Quint finally dies, it's not only satisfying to see an abusive monster die at the hands of what is seemingly also a monster, it's completely shocking to see the brute force of what The Lady in the Lake has become. She grabs him with one arm, and he's helpless to her overpowering strength as she drags him to the lake. And so, he becomes yet another "victim," (he very much deserved what he got) of Bly Manor. Another soul stuck in the lake with the woman he killed - the poor Ms. Jessel.
The Lady in the Lake Reveal
The Lady in the Lake's story is extremely tragic, matching the series' tone. She was murdered by her sister, Perdita, before she could see her child grow up, and has been taking souls from Bly Manor ever since her husband threw the chest her spirit haunted into the lake, as he thought it was cursed. "She would sleep. She would wake. She would walk. She would sleep. She would wake. She would walk. And time went by. How much time it was impossible to reason." She spends 400 years returning to the property from the lake and back, to be exact. This entire episode is filled with grief so soaked into every frame, that one can't help but feel the fear layered underneath. The fear of losing a child. The fear of wondering if you'll never get back what you lost. The fear of losing your sense of self, which the stubbornness of Viola not wanting to pass on does to her. Her memory fades, and so does any recognizable facial features, just like the wheezing figure in the attic. "The feeling of being pulled toward some other place. Now she rejected it. Viola would not go." Jamie says during the narration. In fact, she told the vicar that she would not leave the property as long as her will to grasp onto the land of the living would last. Each time she returns to the property and doesn't see her daughter and husband, she seeks another soul to take back with her to the lake, perhaps to ease her loneliness and sense of abandonment.
Ms. Jessel's Death
Initially, Ms. Jessel was thought to have accidentally drowned, but she was actually murdered by Peter Quint. Her death was chilling to watch because Flanagan makes the viewer feel what it's like to drown. To be killed by somebody in a jealous rage. She lays against her will in the lake. Forever trapped with The Lady in the Lake and her other victims since she was thrown in the lake with the chest 400 years prior. It also shows Peter Quinn's true nature, and his rage is shocking. She didn't deserve to die like this, and this unsettled pain adds to the grief hovering around the property that each character feels in their bones.
Viola Strangles Her Sister
When Viola - who would become The Lady in the Lake - strangles her sister Perdita, it's one of the few jumps scares aside from when Dani continuously sees her ex who died in a car accident earlier in the series. After Perdita kills her dying sister in order to unburden herself and attempt to court Viola's husband, she opens a chest full of clothing that Viola meant solely for her daughter she would never watch grow up. As she opens the chest, Viola leaps out. It's an act of revenge, one not based on Henry James' novella, but a short story of the same name. One that began with unrequited love and raging jealousy - its death forged out of hate and vengeance, further adding to the uneasy tension surrounding Bly Manor.