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The Turning

The Turning: Could it Be the Best ‘The Turn of the Screw’ Cinematic Adaptation?‎

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Yasmeen Mamdouh
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The Turning: Could it Be the Best ‘The Turn of the Screw’ Cinematic Adaptation?‎

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Creating a cinematic adaptation of a novel is not an easy task; it’s even harder when a story has been adapted several times before. Can The Turning stand out as the strongest adaptation of Henry James’ classic, The Turn of the Screw?

The Turning follows young teacher Kate (Mackenzie Davis) as she takes a position as a governess for 7-year-old Flora (Brooklynn Prince) who has lost her parents. After spending some time in the huge mansion where Flora lives with a housekeeper, Kate starts seeing horrible things. Matters get worse when Flora’s 15-year-old brother, Miles (Finn Wolfhard), returns from boarding school, as he seems determined to scare Kate away. With mystery surrounding why the previous governess left, and the constant creepy scares around the house, Kate is pushed to the edge.

Until the very end of the 90-minute film, the audience can’t tell where the scares come from; Is it Miles? Is it a previous employee of the mansion? Is it the former governess? Or, is it all in Kate’s head? That makes the film seem like the first act of a horror movie, in which the protagonist starts seeing scary things, but is still questing what exactly is happening. That, in turn, makes the film seem endless, as the events of the plot get somewhat scary with time, but the audience does not feel any plot progression.

That also has viewers wondering why Kate stays, especially as promising Flora never to leave becomes an unconvincing excuse. The scare factor of the film is not really up to scratch, missing multiple opportunities to be utterly terrifying by playing it safe.

For the acting, Mackenzie Davis is an adequate protagonist for as a horror-film lead, yet still, her performance does not offer anything too remarkable. On the other hand, Brooklynn Prince’s performance is outstanding, as she is able to gather cuteness and creepiness in a plausible and interesting performance. Finn Wolfhard also gave a strong and creepy performance, yet there was more room for him to advance.

While head-scratching endings are sometimes needed in the horror genre, The Turning’s attempt at creating an enigmatic end, or, shall we say adapting the novella as a whole, was not the most successful.

Like This? Try

The Innocents (1961), The Turn of the Screw (1974), and The Turn of the Screw (2009).

360 Tip

Joely Richardson (Darla Mandell) is the fourth member of her family to appear in an adaptation of the 1898 horror novella, The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James. Her grandfather Michael Redgrave played the Uncle in The Innocents (1961), her aunt Lynn Redgrave played the governess Miss Jane Cubberly in The Turn of the Screw (1974) and her uncle Corin Redgrave played the Professor in The Turn of the Screw (2009).

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