A young governess is hired by a man who has become responsible for his young nephew and niece after their parents’ deaths. A modern take on Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw.
Based on a 1898 novel by Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, The Turning tells the tale of orphaned siblings who are abandoned by their nanny. Kate, an elementary school teacher, steps in to take care of the young girl, Flora, while under the impression that Miles, Flora’s older brother, will be away at boarding school. It is revealed at the very beginning that Kate’s mother is unwell and in a mental institution.
From the beginning of the film, viewers can tell something is off. Not only is Kate initially unable to find anyone when she arrives at the mansion, but within the first few minutes of being there she encounters a bird bath filled with fake blood and surrounded by beheaded barbie dolls. As the movie progresses, odd things continue to happen: Kate sees faces in the windows and hears voices in the night; she notices an eerily real sculpture of the family’s late grandmother in her room; and, after going to investigate strange noises in the opposite wing of the house, she runs into Miles.
Kate learns that Miles has been expelled from school for attacking another boy. This is not the only violent outbreak that is seen or described in relation to Miles. He is incredibly disrespectful to Kate throughout the movie and has an odd infatuation with spiders. Viewers learn that he has put pins in the breast, and only the breast, of a mannequin in the sewing room. He convinces Flora to throw a mannequin in the pool so that Kate will think she is drowning. He continually lashes a whip at his horse while teaching Kate to ride, he crushes the head of a dying Koi fish, and the list goes on and on. Miles is the only character in the film who curses—and he does so at Kate. Something is very clearly not right with this boy …
As the film continues, Kate starts having nightmares that get progressively worse—many of which are related to Miles and his offsetting behavior. Viewers can see that Kate becomes increasingly disheveled as time progresses. And just when she begins to put the pieces together of what she thinks is really going on, the film ends.
Each character in The Turning is equally developed, but none are developed as much as they should be. This leaves viewers wondering about every character in the movie. What is their background? What’s their motivation? How do they play a part in the events leading up to the story?
And then there’s one riveting question… Who actually is the bad guy here?
Did Kate inherit her mother’s sickness? Is she imagining it all? Is Miles possessed by ghosts from the house’s past? Is the house itself causing all of these problems? There really is no way to know.
Aside from some crude humor and allusions to sexual misconduct on behalf of the previous riding instructor, The Turning doesn’t exemplify any other extremely negative themes—other than the fact that it is a horror movie with ghosts and a haunted house. There are nearly no religious aspects. There’s only one curse word, however strong it may be, throughout the film. Violence and nudity are not explicit either.
Parents should be cautioned that sexual misconduct is alluded to but never explicitly stated.
The Turning, while a good movie in theory, leaves much of the plot unexplained. Novels can be ambiguous in ways that films cannot, so it makes sense that information is left out in the book. When trying to portray this ambiguity over film, however, much of the plot gets lost and viewers are left confused.
The Turning is Not Dove-approved.