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  • Writer's pictureriawoodburn


Under ‘normal’ non-Covid circumstances The Turning would certainly have been a cinema trip for me, but instead became a rented home movie, courtesy of Amazon. As Henry James’ novel The Turning of the Screw, indulged my love of gothic horror, this film adaption by Floris Sigismondi was on my list. We meet the American Kate (Mackenzie Davis) on her journey to becoming the shiny new live-in Nanny to first Flora (Brooklyn Prince) thEN her brother Miles (Finn Wolfhand). The children are now the only residents of Bly Manor, along with the housekeeper Mrs. Grose (Barbara Martin) after the death of their parents. Both children in much need of care, education, and discipline, and Kate is flung into her new role as well as the mysteries of Bly Manor. As supernatural events begin to plague the house and create havoc with the children, questions over the whereabouts of the former Nanny start to arise.

The Turning dances with the idea that our heroine Kate is not only dealing with the unworldly forces of a haunted mansion but her mental health. In the first moments of the film, Kate waves goodbye to her mother, who is confined to a mental institute who is played by the esteemed Jolie Richardson. Naturally, there is a feeling that her character will be significant in some way. However this assumption that Kate will follow this hereditary insanity courtesy of her mother is disappointing, especially as the strange state of affairs at Bly Manor play out like a physical poltergeist style haunting. If this angle needed to be used, at the very least The Turning could have given Kate a stronger catalyst of her madness or presented us with her troubled state of mind from the offset.

Henry James’ The Turning of The Shrew is a short story, which hits you quick and fast and leaves you with an eerie aftertaste. The problem that film adaptations face is that this story alone cannot be stretched out into a feature film, it needs additional input from its new creator. However, in this new adaptation, everyone at Bly Manor, unfortunately, behaves conveniently as they should. Flora the younger admirable jovial sister, Flynn on the verge of a moody teenager, and Mrs. Grose as a high-class English housekeeper; which leaves us with a set of overly predictable characters. The Turning was not able to add enough extra content to give extra substance to an already thrilling original story. What narrative it does supply is easily solved, with no surprises on the way. What would have aided The Turning, is if it had adopted the rules of a thriller rather than horror, to give it a conundrum and deeper the dimension of the story, to more than just a ghostly tale. Changing the time period to the 90s and creating a confusing open ending just wasn’t enough.

(Photography: Dreamwork Pictures/ Reliance Entertainment/Vertigo Entertainment)

The Turning, 2020 (Film), directed by Flora SIGISMONDI. UK: Dreamwork Pictures


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