the turning | floria sigismondi | carey w. hayes | chad hayes | mackenzie davis | finn wolfhard | brooklynn prince | ghost | ghosts | haunted | haunted house | based on | novel | henry james | remake | the turn of the screw | drama | mystery | united kingdom | ireland | Canada
Film: The Turning
Director: Floria Sigismondi
Writer: Carey W. Hayes and Chad Hayes
Starring: Mackenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard and Brooklynn Prince
This movie I was kind of excited about while also being leery. If that sounds weird, let me explain. I’ve never read the novel that this is based off of, but I did really enjoy The Innocents version of this story, even though it’s been awhile since I’ve seen it. I don’t really watch trailers, but I think I caught this while seeing a movie in the theaters with my girlfriend and she really wanted to see this, so we ended up going together. The synopsis is a young governess is hired to watch over a young girl and then her older brother in their expansive house where weird things start to happen.
We start this with a young woman trying to flee a large estate. She reaches the gate and leaves her car to open it when she’s attacked by a ragged looking man. It then cuts to an eye before shifting to our star, Kate Mandell (Mackenzie Davis) in her apartment with her roommate, Rose (Kim Adis). I do have to give the movie credit as we subtle learn that we’re in the 90’s through something on the television, clothing and the technology that is used.
Kate is giving up her job as a teacher to be the live in tutor for a young rich girl. She was recommended for this position from the school that works at. She doesn’t necessarily want to give up her classroom, but she can’t pass up the money or the chance to make a difference, even though it makes her roommate sad. Before she goes, she meets her with her mother, Darla (Joely Richardson), who is in a mental hospital and is quite the artist. She isn’t all quite there mentally though.
This young woman goes to the large estate where she meets with Mrs. Grose (Barbara Marten). She gets a bit of the lay of the land before heading out to the stables to meet with her new student, Flora (Brooklynn Prince). The two of them hit it off and learns quickly that Flora doesn’t leave the estate. I’m not entirely sure if it is fear as her parents tragically died in an accident at the gate or if there’s something more to it.
The house is quite old and scary which Kate gets a taste of that first night. She is given a fright while closing Flora’s window and she sees something. She is then drawn to another room from sounds. She closes the window there as well as the shutter. This room is in the east wing when she comes face to face with Miles (Finn Wolfhard). He’s supposed to be off at boarding school, but is abruptly home. He is rude to Kate even though he startled her.
The next morning they get off to a better start, but Kate sours when she is called to the phone to learn that Miles was expelled from school for attacking another student. She also tries to teach him some manners, but she is rebuffed by him as well as Mrs. Grose, who then informs her that these two are thoroughbreds and are privileged.
Things get scary for Kate the more she learns about these two children’s past as well as of the estate they’re staying in. This includes her predecessor Miss Jessel (Denna Thomsen) as well as the former caretaker Quint (Niall Greig Fulton) who Miles looked up to. The question then becomes, is this place haunted with the horrific things that happened here or is Kate just looking too deeply and stressed to the point of breaking mentally.
Now since I’ve started this off with what excited me about this. I tried to temper my expectations. I knew that this wasn’t rated very high going in and hearing some people stating they weren’t excited, I try to come in as a blank slate and give it the benefit of the doubt. It really does have some built in clout with having the original version of this being regarded so high and trying to do a modern retelling gives it advantages to me.
The first thing is that I didn’t mind that we set this in the 1990’s. From things I saw, I’m putting it around the mid-90’s. This is a solid move as you don’t really have to worry about cellphones or anything like that. As it goes on, I kind of lose myself in it so I will give it credit there that it does end up feeling timeless. The setting does become problematic to me. It is filmed in Ireland as they selected a place with character and I actually liked the place they used. The problem becomes that Mrs. Grose has a British accent. Davis who portrays Kate is from Canada along with Wolfhard being from there as well. Then we have Prince being from the United States. I have no idea where this movie is supposed to take place though. I assumed with the vigil for Kurt Cobain that its in the Pacific Northwest, but it doesn’t necessarily look like it and the use of having ‘governess’ or this estate, it just doesn’t feel like it would be the US.
There are more things though that doesn’t work. The next thing is that I don’t really know what this movie is trying to claim is happening here. We get an interesting line that Miles comes on to Kate a couple of times. We learn that after the tragic death of his parents, he started to look up to Quint who was a bad influence. Quint ended up dying, so I was wondering if maybe Miles might be being possessed by him, which would explain some of the actions. This doesn’t go anywhere, so it just seems that Miles learned to do some horrible things at an impressionable age.
Kate is haunted by the specter of Miss Jessel, so there’s the idea that she needs to solve what happened to her as well as being haunted by Quint. Again, the issue is that she does figure out what happens, but that goes nowhere either. I was also wondering why he got to meet her mother, but that does play back in a bit for the ending. I just don’t really have idea what they’re trying to say there. I did hear on a podcast something that could explain how the mother tied in and if that’s what they’re going with, I would rate this movie even lower.
Being that the runtime is 97 minutes or so, it doesn’t really outstay its welcome, I just don’t know if they knew where they wanted this to go or if they even know what the explanation is. I do like open ended movies that make me think, I think you really need a direction or the director to know. Leaving some things open for interpretation is good. This falls flat here and the ending doesn’t make any sense to me. I would say that I think another viewing is needed, but I don’t like it enough to do that unfortunately and not sure if another viewing would help clear up this issue.
That will move me to the acting. I didn’t like Davis. Her performance here is awkward, which is actually good as she’s never done something like this before. I think part of what I don’t like is that she was directed to look off in the distance which comes off as weird. I did like her look as she starts to lose it though as she becomes more and more exhausted looking. Wolfhard and Prince were both good though. He is getting to an awkward age where he’s going to take on more adult roles soon, but he’s still a bit young. I would have liked the possession angle with this odd time for him. Prince I thought was cute while also bringing enough creepy to the performance. Marten was good and I like her as the one who knows all of the past, good and bad. Richardson was fine in her performance, but her character doesn’t really feel like it was needed. The rest of the cast was fine in rounding this out, including Thomsen and Fulton to bring some creepiness.
As for the effects, if you would ask me coming in I would say that this would be CGI heavy and rely on jump-scares. We do get some of the latter, but I wouldn’t say that it necessarily relies on them. There are some really creepy aspects to this that come from where it is taking place and from them playing a game of flashlight tag. There is some CGI with the ghosts that we get here, but to be honest, I wasn’t really that bothered by it. The use of mannequins was pretty solid as well. Overall I would say the cinematography was good and there weren’t issues there.
Now with that said, this film had so much potential for me with the source material and by updating it, but it really just falls flat. I do get the feel this could be an issue of too many ‘cooks in the kitchen’ seeing the problems with trying to get this out of development hell. I think that it end builds to some interesting things as well, but just loses its way in the end. I didn’t find it boring so there is that, it just didn’t seem to have an ending. The acting I would say is overall positive, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of Davis. The effects though didn’t go where I thought they would, which is good. It is shot well. The soundtrack I thought was fitting for what was needed and I didn’t have any issues there. My rating here though is just below average though due the problems that I had.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 10