The Haunting Of Garth Marenghi's Dark Manor

Okay, I have to confess I rather enjoyed Netflix's The Haunting Of Bly Manor. The Downton Abbey class aspects, with death as the great leveller of class distinction, made a great undercurrent running beneath the show, missing in the scarier-but-less-insightful previous series The Haunting of Hill House. The use of episode-long flashback to tell character backstory that Damon Lindelof nicked from Watchmen for Lost is possibly used better here than in the many other shows that are using it. The reality gets mixed up between flashback, dream, and memory. Even the nature of being haunted differs, from actual ghosts to the debates you have with yourself, personified in your head, is no less a haunting than anything supernatural brought into the show. It genuinely fits the Netflix modern of forcing you to watch the next episode and the next and the next. And there are some superb performances, especially with T'Nia Miller as the housekeeper who is not what she seems.

The Haunting Of Garth Merenghi's Dark Manor
The Haunting Of Garth Marenghi's Dark Manor

But the moment we glimpse the actor Matthew Holness as Dominic Wingrave in the faded photograph, we are suddenly into a different show. As an actor, he is synonymous with his own Channel 4 show, Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, a parody of horror TV shows made on a low budget, spliced with the British sitcom staple of someone with ideas far above their station – and all the class issues that brings with it. Once that's in your head, one has to wonder if the production originally tried to get Richard Ayoade to play Owen the cook rather than Rahul Kohli. Suddenly that speech about working in Paris as a sous chef makes so much more sense. In that case, was Matt Berry originally in mind for Holness' banished and haunted brother before The Haunting of Hill House's Henry Thomas took the role? There's even a possibility for a shouted WHISKY! moment. Although the choice is scotch or bourbon, the UK or the USA.

And although in The Haunting Of Bly Manor is set in Britain, with British actors and writers, it was filmed in Vancouver and Washington, with an American production crew, and a few things got a little warped in the telling. One scene when not-Richard Ayoade makes repeated jokes about "cake batter" and everyone else joins in or groans along, is defeated when no one in Britain calls it "cake batter," it's "cake mixture" – the batter is reserved for crepes, Yorkshire puddings, fish, sausages and is far more likely to be savoury. Matthew Holness repeats "math" instead of "maths" repeatedly in one scene. . Yarn is referred to rather than wool.  There are Union flags in the classroom – an anathema in the UK, though Stars and Stripes are ubiquitous in the US. The plugs and light switches are all wrong as well – though strangely UK standard in the office scenes. Oh, and we don't hear crickets at night, sound effects guys…

A show like Netflix's Sex Education (which also starred T'Nia Miller) has made a point of merging the UK and US references for effect – proms, no school uniforms, American football – and jackets, bleachers, and the like. At the same time, set in Wales with accents from across the UK. The Haunting Of Bly Manor specifically references tropes of British period drama, but with details that jar. It's like when you watch the American versions of the Harry Potter movies, and they start talking about using flashlights…

What can I say? It still haunts me. It's cool, like ice, cold to the touch and it isn't very nice. The Haunting Of Bly Manor is available on Netflix. Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is available on All4.

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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