Netflix’s surprise 2018 hit The Haunting of Hill House was based on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel of the same name—a classic piece of horror fiction that served as the foundation for the genre. Now, series creator Mike Flanagan tells Birth.Death.Movies that Season Two will be based on Henry James’ 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw.
The horror story—which was the inspiration for the 1961 film The Innocents—follows a governess caring for two children at Bly Manor in the remote English countryside. She soon believes that the children are being haunted by evil spirits, who might be the ghosts of former employees of the manor. Without giving away the ending, The Turn of the Screw has become the subject of debate among literary scholars about if the narrator is actually seeing ghosts or having some sort of psychological breakdown. As The New Yorker described this debate in 2012:
All such attempts to “solve” the book, however admiringly tendered, unwittingly work toward its diminution. Yes, if we choose to accept the reality of the ghosts, “The Turn of the Screw” presents a bracing account of rampant terror. (This is the way I first read it, in my teens.) And if we accept the governess’s madness, we have a fascinating view of a shattering mental dissolution. (That’s the way I next read it, under a professor’s instruction in college.) But “The Turn of the Screw” is greater than either of these interpretations. Its profoundest pleasure lies in the beautifully fussed over way in which James refuses to come down on either side. In its twenty-four brief chapters, the book becomes a modest monument to the bold pursuit of ambiguity. It is rigorously committed to lack of commitment. At each rereading, you have to marvel anew at how adroitly and painstakingly James plays both sides.
This type of paranoia and psychological horror is reminiscent of the first season, where personal trauma took the form of the ghosts that tormented the Crain family. One could read these ghosts as literal spirits or as the physical manifestations of grief.
“We’re looking at all the ghost stories of Henry James as the jumping-off point for the season, so it very much is a whole new deal,” Flanagan told Birth.Death.Movies. “It’s a cool way to expand on some of the things I loved about Season 1, but within the framework of a new story, without having to be restrained by the decisions we made last time.”
As for the cast of this new season, we know for now that Victoria Pedretti (who played Nell Crain) and Oliver Jackson-Cohen (who played the drug-addled Luke) will be returning. “Beyond that,” Flanagan said, “I’ve got quite a few candidates among new faces who I really love, but we haven’t formally cast anybody yet.”
Pedretti will play the lead Governess named Dany, who is taking care of the two spooky children. The second season will be called The Haunting of Bly Manor, and Flanagan says, “it’s going to be unbelievably scary. I already think it’s much scarier than Season One.”
The Haunting of Bly Manor is due out in 2020.