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Somebody had to know what was going on. It wasn’t poor Kate (played by Mackenzie Davis), the nanny in the new film The Turning taking care of two children on an expansive estate haunted by mysterious apparitions.
It wasn’t this reviewer, either, confounded by the film’s abrupt ending. One assumes that “somebody” was Hollywood veteran Steven Spielberg, the film’s executive producer.
He oversaw an update of The Turn of the Screw, an 1898 novella by Henry James, to a 1990s setting. But there’s no updating of thriller tricks: Doors creak, mannequins twitch, and ghoulish faces fog mirrors. Been there, jumped at that. (The Turning is rated PG-13 for terror, violence, brief strong language, and suggestive content.)
If nothing else, kudos to Kate, who perseveres at a new job most people would resign after the first night’s weird whispers. But she promised the children she’d stay, so she tiptoes down dark halls and peeks into unexplored rooms searching for answers. The sweet little girl and unruly teen boy in Kate’s charge say little about the previous nanny’s sudden departure and the riding instructor’s death. Creepy housekeeper Mrs. Grose (Barbara Marten) isn’t an ideal workplace colleague, either.
Stylishly shot, passably scary, but ultimately unsatisfying: Everybody knows a thriller should wrap up like a whodunit, with the source of the mystery revealed, or give viewers a puzzle to ponder. A film called The Turning should have at least one good twist.