If you happened to follow along with our Halloween features last year, then it should come as no surprise that one my favorite classic horror films of all time is Jack Clayton’s The Innocents (you can read my retrospective HERE). And while I was watching all nine episodes of The Haunting of Bly Manor, one of my favorite aspects about this series were all the hat tips to the film that creator Mike Flanagan was able to work into this season.

At the recent press day for Bly Manor, Flanagan discussed paying homage to The Innocents and why it was so important to incorporate these tributary moments to the classic film in the first place. “I adore Jack Clayton's The Innocents. I love it. And their use of O Willow Waly in the movie is so perfect and the way they play it over the credits and the way it backs the story, it's eerie on an incredible level. On our first day of the writers’ room, we went over to Amblin and we watched The Innocents in Spielberg's theater there. We did the same thing in season one with Robert Wise's The Haunting. It's a great way to start. It's a really wonderful way to put up a really beautifully realized adaptation of the same source material, and to start talking to the writers about the things that I love and hear the things that they love about these stories.”

“So, that was a movie I really wanted to celebrate because it's a movie that I think isn't talked about enough for whatever reason,” Flanagan continued. “It doesn't come up as often as The Haunting does, though it employs a lot of the same technique and came out two years prior. It's one of those films that cinephiles love and horror fans love, but a lot of people don't know it. We were actively always looking for ways to kind of tip our hat to it. We didn't have the benefit of being able to bring Russ Tamblyn in this time. We were looking for anyone that we could find from the cast of The Innocents to see if we could get them back.”

“The Easter eggs and the little nerdy things and stuff, that's not only because we're all horror fans, we're all movie fans and TV fans, too. It's the kind of stuff that makes us happy at work to put those in. But it's also a little communication to you guys and to other fans who love the same things we love. I think one of the coolest things about being people who love movies is that we get to share that with each other, and there are these little unspoken secret languages that we develop just being fans of the same thing. It's the fact that those of you that see 217 up there on the screen, you're going to laugh and you don't need to say a word. We've created telepathy, just based on our own shared love of something. That's awesome.”

In Flanagan’s eyes, getting to create those little moments serves a different purpose as well. With these homages in The Haunting of Bly Manor, and last season in Hill House, he wanted to work against online culture’s tendencies to tear down these forms of entertainment we love, and bring fans together with these moments of celebration instead. “There is this other culture of fandom out there that exists to try to identify something someone else likes and to just shit on it as hard as they can. Like on Twitter, for example. That type of fandom that builds its identity on confronting people for having the nerve to enjoy something. That's a toxic energy and it affects audiences and creators alike. We all see it and it hurts. Sometimes it makes you not want to put as much into things. However, the inverse of that is true and is really important and that's that we get to use the shared vocabulary that we've grown over the years as we've fallen in love with stories and movies and TV shows, and as we meet other people who have carved out some swath of common ground with us that way.”

“There are so many reasons for us in this culture right now to believe we have nothing in common with each other. There are so many different ways for us to judge each other and to abuse each other, having any kind of little secret thing that we can share, and that can bring people some kind of shared happiness. That to me is what an Easter egg is. It really is the opposite of a dog whistle. It's a quiet and secret communication that's meant to just awaken just a little moment of joy in people who see the same thing you see, like the same thing you like, and to invite other people into it. Because other people who might not yet speak that language might see the joy that you have as you have a little exchange with someone that way, and it may open them up to something and kind of fold them into it.”

“So they serve a lot of purposes, and it's some of the most fun we get to have. I think the minute we forget our fandom is the minute that the content we put out starts to get gross and stale and cynical and just start to feel disingenuous. So, I hope it works both ways,” Flanagan added.


Look for more on The Haunting of Bly Manor right here on Daily Dead all this week.

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.