Ghosts or Madness?: Turn of the Screw (2009)

No Twilight Saturday? Yep, no more Twilight! We finished that on Thursday as I had to post this on October 30th. Why? Well today is the 210th anniversary of Sense and Sensibility!

At first I was really bummed because Sense and Sensibility doesn’t have a gothic/Halloween adaption for me to review to honor its anniversary. I also already have reviewed Dead Again which was the catalyst for the 1995 Sense and Sensibility adaption. I was at a loss of what to do when I watched this film:

So every October, I see people posting on Instagram about The Turn of the Screw. Every year I tell myself I should read it or watch an adaption, and last year I finally did (both). I really wanted to see the Colin Firth adaption, but it was no longer available on Amazon, so instead I watched the 2009 version with Dan Stevens. That of course ties in perfectly with today as today is the 210th anniversary of Sense and Sensibility. Of which in the 2008 adaption Dan Stevens plays Edward Ferrars.

This film was okay, in a lot of ways it reminded me of the book Alias Grace. But after reading the story, I think the production did the best they could with an uneven source material. The original story doesn’t even have a real end, it starts with someone reading the governess’ recollections and then just ends, about them passing on the story or anything like that.

But as this is a gothic story I also am adding it to Catherine Morland’s Viewing List.

We start off the film with former governess, Ann (Michelle Dockery) in a sanitarium. She speaks to Doctor Fisher (Dan Stevens); and yes they both were in Downton Abbey. How funny, right?

Anyways, Doctor Fisher is trying to find out what happened with Ann and try to get to the cause of it all.

Ann tells our story in a flashback. She was hired as a governess by a wealthy man who inherited his brother’s children along with Bly Manor. He wants nothing to do with them or any problems that arise. He also seduces Ann and she travels out the country with hopes that their fling will grow into something more.

Ann goes to the house and everything feels sad and dark. There is only female staff, as all the men left to fight in WWI. They are all cold and standoffish to her as well.

Ann meets Flora, her pupil, who is kind and sweet and easy to teach. But those quiet days are interrupted when the other charge, Miles, is sent home from boarding school for saying something so dreadful to another student, a male student.

Ann starts wondering about it and when she finds a note from Miles’ boarding headmaster, she is so horrified she destroys it. She can’t believe that what was written could be true as Miles is such a sweet and tender boy. They all have a wonderful time together, and Ann dreams of the Master coming and then becoming a family together.

Ann finds out that her predecessor, Emily Jessel is buried in the church’s graveyard near the house. It turns out that Jessel had committed suicide.

Then things start turning weird…Ann begins to see the figures of a man and a woman. But no one else sees them. She sees them around the kids, but they keep denying it.

Ann starts questioning the staff about who the man could be, but no one will talk to her except Carla. Carla tells her about Peter Quint, now deceased and former steward of the house. The master was best friend with Quint and liked to “raise hell” with him. Peter harassed and sexually abused all the girls, Emily being the one who actually formed a relationship with him. He spent a lot of time with Miles, Emily, and Flora.

Ann keeps seeing the figures of the man and woman and after hearing the descriptions of the Emily and Quint, she realizes they are who she is seeing. But are they ghosts or is Ann just going mad?

Ann sees Quint push Carla off the roof, but everyone says she must have imagined him as he is dead.

But it doesn’t stop, Ann keeps seeing Emily and Quint together everywhere in violent, passionate, sexual acts. Then she sees Flora and Miles acting like them. She thinks the two, who were so very close to them, were groomed by them. It turns out that Miles repeated something that Quint had said to Emily to a male student. They never tell you what, but as Quint was a rough, crude, and abusive man-I’m sure you can imagine that it was bad.

That’s not good.

Ann decides she must do something, at first she was going to leave but she cares too much for the children. She returns and finds the two having rough play by the lake, Miles trying to drown his sister. Ann saves Flora and hits Miles repeatedly, stopped by the housekeeper.

After that Ann decides to confront Miles and sends everyone away but him. There they wait and have a showdown with Quint. This is interesting as Quint possesses Miles, he demands Quint leaves, and Ann hugs him-the next scene him being dead. Did Quint kill Miles as that was always his intent? Or did Ann kill him when she hugged him? He’s a small thin child, it would have been hard for her to strangle or crush him? Was it ghosts or madness on her part?

Hmmm…

The next day they return to find her with Miles’ dead body. She is arrested and we return to the present. The Doctor believes her story, but she is still sentenced to die.

The film wasn’t bad, I just wish they hadn’t so obviously pointed toward ghosts/possession. I wish they had made it a bit more suspenseful and had the audience question her sanity. This easily could have been added in if they had a mention she had seen ghosts before or something. Like I said it was okay, not terrible but not the best film I have ever seen.

For more gothic stories, go to No Haunt Me Then!…I Know That Ghosts Have Wandered On The Earth. Be With Me Always…Drive Me Mad, Only Do Not Leave Me in This Dark Alone…I Cannot Live Without My Life! I Cannot Die Without My Soul.: Wuthering Heights (1939)

For more ghosts, go to All Right, We Got No Choice. Call the Ghostbusters.: Ghostbusters 2 (1989)

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