It’s quite common now for films to be adapted from previous works of literature. Though it can be taken as unoriginal, adaptations can often offer new perspectives or even increment the legacy of the original work. One of the works that’s had quite a few adaptions is Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw. It tells the tale of a governess who has been hired by a man to take care of his niece and nephew after the death of their parents. It wasn’t until college that I read the story and immediately loved it. The elements of mystery and horror blended into such an intricate story was incredible to read for the first time. I was very excited to see that a new adaption of this novella, titled The Turning, was being released this year.
The Turning, which is directed by Floria Sigismondi, sees Kate (Mackenzie Davis) being tasked to take care of Flora (Brooklynn Prince), a young orphan who lives in an estate in Maine. This is a major opportunity for Kate as she’s looking for a career change from being a classroom teacher. Things with Flora seems to be going well until her older brother, Miles (Finn Wolfhard), comes home after getting expelled from his boarding school. Kate starts to go through unexplainable situations, which drive a wedge between her and the children. She soon realizes that both the children and the house are harboring dark secrets that will test her in ways that she never imagined.
Before talking about specific story elements, I have to give praise to the use of mirrors and spectral figures throughout the film. Going into the film, I expected it to be full of jump scares since that seems to be what most mainstream horror films rely on for scares. However, several scenes that use mirrors and spectral figures were genuinely terrifying. For instance, the first night that Kate is at the estate, she’s getting Flora ready for bed. As she goes to close the window, a figure’s reflection is shown. Up to that point in the film, there weren’t any real moments that scared me but seeing that reflection definitely did. The scare was completely unpredictable, as there was no build-up, which only made it much scarier.
As with any adaptation, there were some changes from the plot of the novella in The Turning. Besides some character traits being changed, one of the major changes is the time that the plot of the film takes place. The film takes place during 1994, which is established through a reporter breaking the news about Kurt Kobain’s death. The time change affects the fact that Kate isn’t a governess but rather a school teacher. However, I don’t understand the real significance of establishing what time the plot takes place in. If it had any other effects that made a major impact on the plot, I would understand. It lacks any real substance in the film, which makes it out to be a lackluster aspect.
I understand that films who depict acts and situations of fiction ask its audience to suspend its disbelief, but it’s hard to imagine any adult putting up with any of this. To be more specific, I’m referring to what Kate has to put up with the kids, not the supernatural and horror elements. The lack of respect that Miles shows to Kate is so hard to watch that I can’t imagine how she puts up with it. The multiple scares that she goes through would’ve easily driven anyone out of the house. I understand that all of this is the point of her mental state descending, but showing it in different ways would have made the story much more convincing rather than focusing on why it seems illogical.
After being disappointed by another big mainstream horror film earlier this month, I hoped The Turning would make up for that. However, the story is rather bland, even with its incredible scares. Adapting a work that already has several adaptations can be difficult, making me not want to judge this film too harshly. However, there also has to be a sense that The Turning was willing to add new elements that made it stand out from the rest. The ending left me more puzzled than excited, which ultimately is the effect of a lackluster film.
the overall story is rather bland, even with its incredible scares