TV Review: The Haunting of Bly Manor

Review of Netflix’s The Haunting of Bly Manor.

A Bright-eyed American au pair hopes to make a difference caring for two orphans in a grand English manor. Yet the feeling of dread is undeniable. 

Review by Astilbe

Rated: 5 Stars

The Haunting of Bly Manor is an American supernatural horror drama that is loosely based on Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw as well as some of his other supernatural stories.

I previously reviewed the first season of this series, The Haunting of Hill House, for Long and Short Reviews. Each season is a standalone work, but I highly recommend checking out Hill House to anyone who enjoys Bly Manor. They share many of the same themes and even actors.

The second season of this show was set in the 1980s and follows a young au pair named Dani Clayton who was hired by a busy lawyer to move to Bly Manor, his remote estate, and look after Flora and Miles, his orphaned niece and nephew.

Soon after she arrived, Dani began to experience paranormal phenomenon that had no logical explanation. There were muddy footprints in the hall every night, strange noises that no one else heard, and apparitions that appeared and disappeared in the blink of an eye.

What made these experiences even odder were the reactions of the children and other Bly Manor staff to them. Things that frightened Dani were often treated as business as usual by her other residents of this lonely, old estate.

Yes, there were excellent reasons for that, but you’ll have to discover them for yourselves.

Anyone who is already familiar with Henry James’ work will have a few clues to work with in the beginning when everything is mysterious, but the narrator will explain it to viewers who haven’t read his stuff yet.
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Dani was a curious but sensible woman. It’s always nice to meet characters who strike a relatable balance between wanting to figure out what’s really going on in their new home and being wary of getting too close to entities they don’t understand and have no control over.

The best paranormal tales in my opinion are the ones that are written about people who are neither the bravest nor the jumpiest person around. There wouldn’t be much of a story all if Dani had run away shrieking the first time she heard a bump in the night, but she also wouldn’t have survived more than a few nights there if she’d had no fear of the unknown at all.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that explored the relationships among Dani, Flora, Miles, and the other staff members. They were so isolated from the outside world that their friendships grew much deeper than they might have ordinarily. After all, this happened during a time when they didn’t even have the Internet to keep them company on a dark and stormy night!

While it took a while to get to know everyone well, I liked all of the characters once they started revealing their true selves to the audience. These were the sorts of genuine folks I’d love to invite over to play board games, drink tea (the proper, British kind), and share stories with.

One of the biggest differences between Bly Manor and Hill House that I can share in this review without giving away spoilers is that I was much more frightened of the ghosts this time around. They made me shudder in a good way. This was something I was only willing to watch in broad daylight, and even then it scared the dickens out of me a few times.

If you love getting scared as much as I do, The Haunting of Bly Manor might be the perfect Halloween activity this autumn.


The Haunting of Bly Manor Trailer 

Game Review: Hungry Hearts Diner

Review of the free restaurant simulation game Hungry Hearts Diner: A Tale of Star-Crossed Lovers by GAGEX.

Review by Astibe.

Hungry Hearts Diner is a lighthearted game set in a small diner in Japan shortly after the end of World War II. The diner is owned and operated by a woman whose husband recently had serious health problems that are preventing him from working or even leaving their home.

While he recuperates, your job as a player is to keep her busy making the various dishes that will attract customers to the shop. Their money will enable the main character to buy more food and improve her restaurant, and their stories about their lives will eventually offer something else as well.

The atmosphere of this game was relaxed. While I did want to make sure that customers always had a variety of food to order, there was no time limit on how long they were willing to wait. The only real limit in playing had to do with how much energy the protagonist had. She could only do so much cooking and serving before she needed to rest for a while.

I really enjoyed the process of keeping her customers happy and gradually making improvements to the family restaurant. It was a tiny place that only had room for two customers in the beginning, so it was exciting to see that change as the main character earned enough money to buy things like additional tables or a fridge.

It was also exciting to get to know the customers and gradually realize what their favorite foods were! Everyone had a dish or two that they’d eagerly order first, and there was a special signal in the game showing their happiness if you happened to have that dish available when they showed up.

The Second Layer to the Story

A busy morning at the diner.

As you might have already guessed, making food is only one part of this game. There are also a few mysteries to uncover about the lives of certain customers and of the main character herself.
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For example, Ol’Tokei was a grouchy neighbour whose clock-repair business was failing. One of the long-term objectives in this game was to figure out why he was always in such a terrible mood and if there was anything your character could do to help.

There were about a half-dozen other characters who had their own dilemmas to solve, and I enjoyed seeing how all of those stories unfolded over time. They made the world they inhabited feel three-dimensional.

The main character must also solve her own family problems in the midst of trying to help others. Not only was her husband not doing well, their estranged adult daughter was having serious health problems during her pregnancy. It was the player’s job to gradually uncover why the relationship between them and their daughter broke down and whether there’s anything the protagonist can do to fix it.

As much as I enjoyed the short-term goals of making sure the diner had food that appealed to every customer, the best part of this game was seeing how all of the characters handled the problems in their lives. Would they find solutions to their problems?

Some of them were dealing with serious issues that had been plaguing them for years. None of their problems were things that could be fixed with a rice ball or a cup of ramen soup, but they were all a little more willing to discuss what was bothering them after their stomachs had been filled with good food.

Final Thoughts

Hungry Hearts Diner is a game I’d wholeheartedly recommend to older kids and adults. There are some mature themes in it that wouldn’t be appropriate for younger viewers, but I appreciated the nuanced approach it took to the complex ways people respond to conflict and loss.

It felt quite emotionally realistic to me. That’s something I wasn’t expecting to find when I first began playing, but it did make me keep coming back for more until I’d solved all of the mysteries!

Hungry Hearts Diner can be played on Android, iOS, and PC devices.

TV Review: The Haunting of Hill House

Review of Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House.

Flashing between past and present, a fractured family confronts haunting memories of their old home and the terrifying events that drove them from it.

Review by Astilbe.

The Haunting of Hill House was originally a book written by Shirley Jackson about a family who moved into a haunted house. I have not read that book yet, so this review will only talk about things that happened in the TV series.

In the TV series, the Crain family moved into Hill House in the summer of 1992. Mr. and Mrs. Crain earned a living by, among other things, flipping old houses, so their plan was to live in Hill House while they fixed it up before hopefully selling it for a nice profit.

The only problem with this plan was that their new house was haunted, and not necessarily by friendly spirits. Since the Crains had five children who were approximately between the ages of six and fourteen when they first moved it, they had a lot of opportunities to meet the spirits who already lived there.

The Crain Family. Photo source:

Each episode contained two main storylines. One of them showed what happened to the family in 1992, and the other gave updates on what the characters were doing in the present day.

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One of the things I loved the most about this series was how many ghosts were in it. There had been a lot of untimely deaths at Hill House over the decades, and not all of the spirits who had been trapped there were necessarily interested in interacting with their newest roommates. Sometimes they simply lurked in the background of a shot and watched what was going on.

At times, that was scarier to me than the ghosts who were more active and violent! There wasn’t a single room in this house that didn’t have someone haunting it, and that makes it this a series I’m planning to rewatch in order to find as many of these scenes as possible.

This isn’t to say that all of the spirits were passive or harmless. Some of them roamed the halls of the house at night, and others could be very dangerous for any living being who crossed their paths. One of my favourite ghosts was a man who floated through the air and opened doors in search of something. While I can’t say who or what he might have been looking for, I did shudder every time I heard the tap of his cane against the wood floors.

I have not heard yet if there is going to be a second season, but I hope it will happen. This was a deliciously frightening series that I deeply enjoyed watching, and I’d love to learn more about the Crain family and the spirits who live in Hill House in the future.

This show does include acts of violence and references to the deaths of children and animals, so consider yourself warned if those are topics you find difficult to watch.

TV Review: Dumplin’ – a Netflix original movie

Review of Dumplin’ – a Netflix original movie

The plus-size, teenage daughter of a former beauty queen signs up for her mum’s pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow in her footsteps, revolutionizing the pageant and their small Texas town.

Review by Poppy

Willowdean Dickson is a larger sized Texas teen who has a girl crush on all things Dolly Partin and who lives in the shadow of her pageant winning mother, Rosie, former Miss Bluebonnet. She’s been pretty much raised by her Aunt Lucy, a fun-loving but obese woman who teaches Will how to love, laugh and fangirl over Dolly Partin. Sadly, as the movie begins, her Aunt Lucy has passed away, leaving Willowdean one more thing to weigh her down.

On the outside, Willowdean (aka Will or, aka the unfortunate nickname her mama gave her, Dumplin’) seems confident and well adjusted, but things happen which make it clear that’s not true. When the “hot boy” at work shows interest in her, she doesn’t believe he’s genuine. When her mama calls her Dumplin’ in front of the entire school, unsurprisingly it leads to bullying from kids at school. The final straw is listening to her mom getting ready to co-host the upcoming pageant and all but ignoring Will. As a protest, and because she stumbles across some items from Aunt Lucy’s things that inspire her, she signs up for the pageant. So does her best friend, Ellen, as well as another large and insanely upbeat girl from school, Millie (who is my favorite character in this movie) and an emo/goth feminist named Hannah.

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With a little help from from drag queen friends of her late aunt, these unlikely candidates prepare for the pageant.

I won’t give any more of the story away, but while it might be a bit predictable and clichéd and occasionally cheesy, it’s fun and it’s sweet and it makes a heart happy. It’s not something I’d watch over and over again, but it was so touching and adorable. I loved the character development in Will and Hannah in particular, but also Rosie. Rosie never meant to make her Dumplin’ feel poorly, she just got wrapped up in other things.

I admit, I cried a tear or two… yes, I’m a crier at movies, it’s true. But it genuinely touched me. This movie is worth a watch. Here’s the trailer, if you’re interested in a peek:

TV Review of Santa Clarita Diet — a Netflix Original Series

TV Review of Santa Clarita Diet (Seasons One and Two) — a Netflix Original Series

Review by Poppy

Show description from Wikipedia:

Joel and Sheila Hammond are everyday suburban real estate agents in Santa Clarita, California. The couple face a series of obstacles when Sheila has a physical transformation into a zombie and starts craving human flesh. With Joel and the family trying to help Sheila through the trying time, they have to deal with neighbors, cultural norms and getting to the bottom of a potentially mythological mystery.

I started watching this show on a whim and fell madly in love.

First, though, a disclaimer: this show is filled to the brim with profanity, blood and gore, sexual innuendo and utterly irreverent and warped humor. Here’s the trailer:

My favorite character on this show has to be Joel (played by Timothy Olyphant). He’s desperately trying to find some kind of normalcy in his life, even though “we have to kill people”. His family is the most important thing to him, and he’ll do (and does do) anything to keep his family together and safe. And he’s just so stinking funny. He’s kind of the straight guy, and his delivery is so perfect.


I’m also a huge fan of Eric (played by Skyler Gisondo) who manages to make geeky absolutely adorable. His crush on Abby is blushingly sweet and he’s not afraid to be afraid, but he manages to keep it all together, even in the midst of chaos.

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Sheila (played by Drew Barrymore) is okay, but sometimes a little much.


And sometimes I want to slap Abby (played by Liv Hewson), which may be a credit to her acting ability because her character is supposed to be a relatively typical teenager.


I’ve watched season one twice now and have started rewatching season two in anticipation for a season three at some point in time early in 2019, and it’s amazing how funny it still is the second time around. Instead of worrying about keeping up with what was happening, I could focus on appreciating the little things I might have missed the first time: small gestures or facial expressions, jokes that were hidden inside regular conversation and more. It wasn’t old and stale, it was even better than my first experience watching.

I’ve told everyone who will listen that they should watch this show. But I feel I should remind everyone once again and say: “This show is jam-packed full of things that are guaranteed to be offensive to someone … blood and gore (graphic and on screen), tons of profanity (like every third word), sex and sexual innuendo, and the casual acceptance of the fact they kill people and Sheila eats them.

If you can deal with that, you should absolutely start watching this show. Right. Now. It’s a hoot.

Television Review: The Masked Singer

Review of The Masked Singer

Review by Ginger

I am not one who is known for watching reality shows and definitely not those where people get on stage to sing and dance. However, I’ve been hearing and seeing the advertisement for this new reality show The Masked Singer. A cast of unknown celebrities perform in costume to hide their identities. Each week depending on the audience’s vote along with the panel’s opinions one singer is eliminated — then unmasked! It’s hosted by the energetic Nick Cannon and has a panel of artists and performers who make up the judging panel of Robin Thicke, Jenny McCarthy, Ken Jeong and Nicole Scherzinger. It sounded interesting, it’s something different and besides there was really nothing else on television that I wanted to watch that night. I decided to give the premiere show a try.

The first contestant opened with plenty of hype and a bright introduction. The Peacock gave an awesome performance and actually had a great singing voice. His battle was against the Hippo, who was my least favorite. The second round was a battle between the Monster and Unicorn. This pair up I couldn’t pick which I liked best because I liked them both. And the final round was a competitive perform between the Deer and Lion. I was amazed at the choreography of the Vegas style back up dancers and in awe of the beautifully crafted detailed costumes that each contestant wore.

Before each performance was a short video of the celebrity in costume giving clues to who they are. My curiosity was piqued because I didn’t have a clue even with the opening description who could be under the mask.
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Here’s the trailer for the show:

The judging panel consist of a variety of talented opinions and they seem to work well with each other and most importantly they are funny. Nick Cannon’s energetic vibe as host adds additional flavor to the show and he interacts well with the contestants.

I’m a girl that loves suspense and this show certainly is entertaining in that aspect. The only problem I have is waiting a week to see what other masked performer will be added and which masked celebrity will be eliminated and revealed.

TV Review of: Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia – a Netflix Original Series

Review of: Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia – a Netflix Original Series
Created by Guillermo del Toro in conjunction with DreamWorks Animation and Double Dare You Productions.

Review by Xeranthemum

My youngest is the one responsible for this Netflix obsession. He was watching it while we were busy making plans for New Year’s Eve and, instead of focusing on what needed to be done, my husband and I were both sucked into the story. Three hours went by without notice. We finished this particular story loop about Merlin and Morgana, and good versus evil trolls, the next day.

What made this series so compelling? The characters, the plot and its intelligence. Yes, it’s a cartoon but computer generated or not, the presentation is filled with action, battles, lessons, growth in maturity and fantastical creatures, and the most compelling aspect, friendship. There are so many elements to take in that I more than likely will re-watch it from the beginning. It’s that detailed and good.

There are so many characters that flavor this series; good and bad trolls, regular humans and humans on a quest with a destiny, namely Jim. He’s not comfortable with the burden he will bear but with his friends at his side, he is forced to stand tall and accept his role. The troll hunter’s mom does not come across as dumb or disrespected. She has strength, she loves her son and she acts like a grownup should. Her unconditional love is a joy to behold. Jim’s respect for his mom and his clear love for her garners my respect.

Morgana was presented as convincingly evil but Merlin isn’t exactly a benign character. He’s more acerbic, canny, and Machiavellian. Actually, there were tried and true fantasy tropes sprinkled throughout the episodes and yet, they were made fresh and riveting within Jim’s role in the series. All 52 installments are amazing. Each show ends with a cliffhanger or a shocking revelation, or a threat from which there seems to be no chance of escape. That is how easy it is to keep watching show after show after show. The hours effortlessly fly by. It must be magic, LOL.

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For fantasy lovers this series is like candy, or potato chips – you can’t watch only one episode. I certainly couldn’t.

If you’re not sure yet, watch the trailer and be amazed.

If you are curious about 3 Below, the sci-fi fantasy sequel, then this trailer is for you:

Jim reminds me of Johnny Quest, but instead of his best friend being Hadji, it’s a troll with 6 eyes named Blinky, short for Blinkous Galadrigal, and humans Claire and Toby. Their friendship is a huge asset to the story. I heartily recommend watching the Troll Hunter series. It’s like a great epic YA fantasy book come to ‘life’.