The Turning is a modern adaptation of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw a ghost story which was written in 1898.
This production which is set to take place in the1990s in Maine but was filmed in Ireland. The setting is opulent, as a young girl Kate Mandell (Mackenzie Davis) is hired from her city job teaching 25 kids a day to be the governess of two children who have lost their parents.
The building and grounds which are surrounded with security fences and locked gates are filled with riding trails, a giant heated pool, a large protracted maze, beautiful hanging gardens and walkways which frame a large castle like building give us an idea of the wealth of the family.
The two kids and their house keeper (Barbara Marten) are the only occupants of the large estate and the stable of horses. The posh paintings and furniture are set off by long polished corridors and extremely high ceilings, which are beautiful, but can be frightening.
The stable manager (Niall Greig Fulton) who also has passed away taught the kids how to ride horses very effectively. They propose to teach Kate Mandell how to ride better than she presently knows how.
The location is a perfect setting for The Turning large spacious with many corridors and many dark locations. It fits the loss of parents and Kate’s past loss of her father.
The settings and the performance are fine particularly Finn Wolfhard from TV’s Strange Things who appears to find Kate attractive but constantly attempts to control her rather than following her direction. Flora (Brooklynn Prince) is a little easier on her new teacher but she also resists anything new.
The ghost story flows shortly after Kate arrives, there are noises, vibrations and visions on walls and in windows. The ghost appears to be that of the dead stable manager.
While all the factors are available the film fails to bring frightening scenes for us to shrink from. More often than now the kids are playing with their teacher to get a rise from her and we begin to wonder who is seeing what.
But the weakest part of the film is the finish where Kate is shown back where we have seen her with her mother in a rest home and is shocked to see the face of the person sitting in the empty hot tub. Director Sigismondi fails to give us an answer to The Turning. We never learn which way the screw turns and that’s disappointing.