Book vs. Movie: The Turning/Turn of the Screw

Hello, my darling readers!
Today I bring you my thoughts on the latest adaptation of Henry James’ Turn of the Screw that I watched. I was curious to see how this one would turn out, so let’s find out whether it was a hit or a miss!

The Plot (as found on RT):

Kate Mandell takes a job as a nanny for two young orphans at an isolated Gothic mansion in the Maine countryside. She soon learns that the children — Miles and Flora — are emotionally distant and unstable. When strange events start to plague Kate and the siblings, she begins to suspect that the estate’s dark corridors are home to a malevolent entity.

Book vs. Movie:

A while ago I wrote a book vs. TV show posts when Netflix dropped The Haunting of Bly Manor. After I was really excited by the show I read Henry James’ novella, and boy how I hated that little piece of writing. I had *a lot* of issues with the story per se and James’ writing style, I’d recommend checking out the post linked above as I don’t want to go into to much detail here again. Let me just say I disliked the story because it didn’t make much sense. There were too many questions that never got answered or explained. The characters were annoying at best and I honestly couldn’t be bothered to care for a single one of them. The novella has it’s flaw but as Netflix has shown us, it does give building blocks for a potentially intriguing adaptation.

I didn’t expect that much from The Turning but I hoped it would also mark an improvement in comparison to the original story. Turns out, it’s just almost as bad.
Where to begin? So, the story is updated a bit, transferring it into 1994. It’s rather easy to pinpoint the exact point in time the story is set in, as they established the year in the laziest way possible. In the first minutes we see a TV report on Kurt Cobain’s suicide. It’s like they wanted to add a cart somewhere saying ‘1994’ but also wanted to be a teeny-tiny bit less obvious about it. The 90s vibe is mostly established through clothing that Kate wears and by a poster in Miles’ room. Apart from that it could have been set last year had they given the phone a more modern look. Especially the language threw me off at times. For example, was ‘cool’ a thing that people already said a lot in 1994? I always thought that’s more of an early 2000s thing? The soundtrack was one of the few things I liked about the film, but while they tried for a grunge aesthtic overall, the music didn’t exactly mirror that. I feel like some of the songs also sounded a lot more modern than the time they were going for here. Honestly, if they hadn’t shoved the year this is supposed to take place in in our faces at the beginning of the film, I wouldn’t even have cared. Because, believe me, this is the least of our problems here.

Remember when I said the original story didn’t make much sense? Well, neither does the adaptation. Why are the ghosts there? What’s the idea? How/why are they trapped? Why only those two? What the heck is Mrs. Grose problem? What is up with Kate’s mum? What on earth was that ending? Or rather complete lack thereof?

I am willing to believe that to a certain degree this is to blame on the re-writing process the script went through. Apparently, the first rewrite changed the script so much that it was entirely different from the original idea and the director was replaced. I’m curious how the movie had turned out had they gone with that script instead…
The film mostly relies on jump scares and while some scenes are intriguing, everything feels disconnected, almost as if there were parts missing in-between.

It doesn’t help that again the characters are supremely annoying and you simply don’t care for any of them. The little girls seems decent at first but it soon turns out that both she and her brother are little monsters. Again, there is one scene almost at the end where I had hope that we’d get some depth on Miles but no such luck. Mackenzie Davis is beyond bland in this and it’s like she isn’t even trying.

What a disappointment this film was. I already hated the novella and this movie certainly is not an improvement on any of it. The only good thing is that watching the adaptation takes less time than reading the thing. But honestly yeet both out the window and just watch The Haunting of Bly Manor instead.

Did you prefer the book or the movie? Let me know in the comments!

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5 thoughts on “Book vs. Movie: The Turning/Turn of the Screw

  1. Interesting…I had no idea this was being made into a movie! Too bad it was a disappointment. I can, however, confirm that “cool” was in heavy usage in the 90s, and it dates even further back than that, to at least the 1920s. It’s one of the few slang words that hasn’t varied much in meaning or use.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Wrapping it up for September | The Punk Theory

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