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(2020) (Mackenzie Davis, Brooklyn Prince) (PG-13)

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Horror: After taking a job as a live-in governess for two orphaned kids, a young woman begins to sense that the massive estate they call home might be haunted.
It's 1994 and Kate (MACKENZIE DAVIS) is a young woman who's decided to take a job as a live-in governess for a 7-year-old girl, Flora (BROOKLYNN PRINCE), whose parents died in a car crash. Arriving at the massive estate, Kate meets Mrs. Grose (BARBARA MARTEN), the housekeeper and cook who's served the ultra-wealthy family for decades.

After meeting and instantly bonding with Flora, Kate is surprised to meet her older brother, Miles (FINN WOLFHARD), who's supposed to be off at boarding school but has now returned home.

Like Flora, he has no friends, what with his only one being estate caretaker Quint (NIALL GREIG FULTON), who died sometime in the past. As Kate gets to know the kids better and learns her way around the sprawling manor, she begins experiencing weird little things that increasingly have supernatural tinges to them.

As that progresses, and vowing to keep her promise to Flora not to leave like others have done in the past, Kate tries to maintain her sanity as the spooky stuff starts to intensify in the home.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Our reviewing policy for films that aren't shown in advance to critics in most markets (including ours) is that we'll only provide a paragraph or two about the film's artistic merits or, more accurately, lack thereof. After all, life is too short to spend any more effort than that on a movie that even the releasing studio knows isn't any good (which is why they hid it from reviewers before its release).

In this latest adaptation of Henry James' 1898 horror novella "The Turn of the Screw," Mackenzie Davis stars as a young woman who takes a live-in governess job at one of those massive manors architecturally designed -- it would appear -- simply for the casting potential of being a big honking place with plenty of wings, hallways, rooms, staircases and such where spookiness can take place. And it even has an equally large maze out back -- or somewhere, I never quite got my bearings of the exact layout -- but after being introduced it's never used again (presumably to avoid comparison to Jack and Danny's winter wonderland in "The Shining").

Director Floria Sigismondi -- working from a screenplay by Carey Hayes and Chad Hayes -- delivers some decently effective jump scares, and Brooklyn Prince and especially Finn Wolfhard as the kids are creepy enough for the story and setting, but I would have preferred a deeper plunge into such madness as things progressively get bumpier in the night. There's a ghost or two and the usual discovery of past misdeeds that have resulted in the supernatural phenomena. Which is all fine and dandy but without a lick of originality or even just a fun spin on the well-worn material.

But then the flick tries to go all M. Night Shyamalan with a twist ending as the third act concludes to explain everything that's occurred. Alas, it's botched to such a great degree that it's not only ineffective, but it's also likely to confuse many a viewer. Here, all involved try to turn the screw too much, resulting in the horror being stripped and thus not as solid as it could and should have been. "The Turning" rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed January 23, 2020 / Posted January 24, 2020

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