"The Turning" Review

You've probably heard about the terrible critical and audience scores for "The Turning" by now. If not, allow me to fill you in. The film is originally based on The Turn of the Screw by Henry James but the allure and mystery of the popular horror story gets lost in translation by way of a mishandled edit and in all likelihood some corporate meddling.

Mackenzie Davis plays Kate Mandell, a woman hired to be a governess for a wealthy family. Originally she takes the job with the expectation that she'll be looking after Flora, the young daughter, but upon arriving at the manor finds that Flora's older brother Miles has returned home from boarding school after being expelled for violently attacking another student.

Over the course of the film Kate begins to encounter the ghosts of Flora's previous governess Miss Jessel, and the former groundskeeper Quint that had been tormenting and eventually killed Jessel. When first watching the film the story seems to play with the idea that the other characters Kate interacts with could also be ghosts, particularly Flora since she is said to never leave the estate and becomes hysterical when Kate tries to bring her through the front gates to run an errand in town.

The ending insinuates that the audience was supposed to be wondering whether or not Kate was encountering ghosts or simply imagining them as the result of inheriting a mental illness like what her mother has. There is not enough presented in the film to put the focus on this mystery. When Kate escapes with the children, the story jumps back to a point of her midway through the story when she is receiving a care package of blackened drawings from her mother. It's never clearly established whether this time jump is the result of Kate having some sort of psychic vision, if she is now a ghost stuck in some sort of supernatural time loop, or any other sort of explanation that would leave the audience with a sense of understanding of the story's conclusion. Even more baffling is the jump to a shot of Kate's eye that was shown previously in the film as an at-the-time unknown spectator of Kate being tormented by the ghost of Miss Jessel. There's one last jump to Kate being at the psychiatric facility and being frightened by a vision of her mother, or at least, we think that's who she was encountering since we never got to see her mother's face in the final stinger.

The film is a failure in every attempt at building a mystery to follow through on. The final sequence of footage (roughly the last minute of the film, sans credits), all reads like footage that was originally intended for other purposes but got thrown together for a baffling and clumsy ending to a dull, un-frightening horror film.


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