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THE TURNING Review – Does a Poor Job Adapting a Classic

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Starring: Mackenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard

Written by: Carey Hayes and Chad Hayes

Directed by: Floria Sigismondi


Based on the Henry James novella The Turn of the ScrewThe Turning stars Mackenzie Davis as Kate, a schoolteacher who takes a job as a governess to a young girl in a massive country estate. Flora’s parents died in a car crash, leaving her alone with Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper, while her older brother, Miles, is away at boarding school. For some reason, the film is set in 1994 (as evidenced by reports of Kurt Cobain’s death on the news) without using any of the music or clothing of the era. The only reason I can think for it to be set in 1994 is that it was before the wide adoption of cell phones.

Things start out well enough. Flora is a sweet and silly eight year old girl who gets along well with Kate. Kate isn’t too concerned by the creepy mannequin in her room or the peculiar voices she thinks she hears from the recesses of the house. Things take a darker turn when Miles returns home from school unexpectedly, and Kate gets a call, informing her he has been expelled for attacking another student.

Miles is weird and intense. Kate wakes up to find him standing over her. He is too liberal with the horse whip when teaching Kate how to ride. When they find a koi fish out of the pond, being eaten by a bird, Miles stomps the fish to death, then explains in a monotone that it shouldn’t “suffer.” 

Kate’s nightmares worsen. She hears voices and sees ghosts. At least, she thinks she does. Is the body of the previous governess tangled up in the lake? Or is it all in Kate’s head? This is the theme of the film – but it doesn’t present itself until the last ten minutes of the film.

I haven’t read The Turn of the Screw since high school, but I do seem to remember themes of insanity, and whether or not the house was actually haunted or if the governess was mad. This is the only way to explain the ending, which seemed to end thrice before just basically stopping. It was sudden, it was awkward, and it is no way to end a film. The majority of the film is set up to make you wonder if the house is haunted or if Miles is a psychopath. It isn’t until the last few scenes that Kate’s sanity becomes a plot point.

There are lots of scares (or attempted scares) in this film, but none of them seem to work together. Spiders (which were not as malevolent or plentiful in the film as they seemed in the trailers), voices, ghosts, creepy dolls, moving mannequins, and a sociopathic teenager are all present, but none of the scares seem to play off one another. A lot of the “ghosts” whip by so fast or are so subtle I only knew that was what was going on because Kate would ask if anyone else saw that. I sure didn’t. 

The Turning enjoys a gorgeous setting, but relies too heavily on the gothic manor for ambiance. The story lacks overall cohesiveness. While the imagery is chilling, that is just not enough to carry a film.

  • The Turning
2.0

Summary

The Turning enjoys a gorgeous setting, but relies too heavily on the gothic manor for ambiance. The story lacks overall cohesiveness. While the imagery is chilling, that is just not enough to carry a film.

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User Rating 1 (1 vote)

Written by Alyse Wax

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