This movie isn’t scary.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you know what this movie is about: a new live-in governess Kate (Mackenzie Davis) is tasked with tutoring a young girl and boy named Flora and Miles (Brooklynn Prince and Finn Wolfhard) and creepy stuff starts happening. I’d say that’s the plot, but it’s hard to find a real, coherent plot altogether.
This movie is based on “The Turn of the Screw.” While the names are the same, the novella has slight differences: their uncle hires the governess, and Miles is charming instead of creepy, and apparently the story actually has an ending.
The performances are good, driven by Mackenzie’s slow turn into madness. That is the strongest thing I can say about the film. Every decision in the film feels like you’re getting lost in a maze, but the walls are moving. Just when you think you see a way out, there’s something blocking you. Why does it take place in the early 90’s? Why does Miles have pet spiders? Why does Flora collect dolls? These and almost everything, whether it’s subtle or not, amounts to one large pile of nothingness. Did the writers roll dice? If it lands on an even number, we make the girl say something creepy at THIS scene, if it’s an odd number, we make her say something sweet. Someone needs to convince me that’s not how they decided the ending.
I know that with horror films, the ending is always a big deal. Yes, in all movies you want a good ending, but these days with scary movies it seems like we’re always talking about either a big “twist” at the end, or how well the ending explains paranormal events that happened in the course of a story. Sometimes no explanation is fine, as long as it’s unsettling and well-written enough not to make you angry. The ending here deserves an explanation as to what happened with the studio. By the time the credits came on screen, I didn’t care why the main character was seeing things, or what was behind it all, I just wanted to know who is responsible for the final cut.
Do yourself a favor and skip this while it’s out. I wish I could even say that it had some good creepy visuals, but I can’t. Like I said, the performances were good. But the “scary” imagery has all been seen before, mysterious pasts don’t equal good character development, and if you’re going to do a time-jump, it has to lead somewhere, not nowhere. The best thing that can come from this film is that people can learn how not to make a horror movie.