With a screenplay penned by none other than Truman Capote, this film adaptation of Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw (1898) still holds up today.
The story centers around Miss Giddons, who’s been hired as the new governess of Bly House. The place is owned by the uncle of two children who’ve lost their parents. The uncle doesn’t live at the house and isn’t interested in the children, so he leaves all decisions regarding their welfare to the governess. The children are precocious and seem to hide secrets they aren’t willing to share. Soon, Miss Giddons begins seeing the sad ghost of the previous governess and the menacing ghost of the former valet who was her lover.
My favorite parts of the film were the cryptic things suggested through dialog. For instance, when Mrs. Grose, another servant of the house, is asked by Miss Giddons about the deceased valet, she comments that, “He had the Devil’s own eye.”
Later Flora, the young girl in Giddons’ care, while saying her prayers asks what would happen if she weren’t a good girl and God didn’t take her soul. She adds, “…wouldn’t the Lord just leave me here to walk around? Isn’t that what happens to some people?”
There are more examples of the subtle influences of the supernatural through dialog and things that are seen, such as when a large beetle crawls out from the mouth of a child’s statue just as Miss Giddon goes to look at it, symbolizing her fear that the ghosts of Bly House are attempting to possess the children.
In the end, this movie can be frustrating if you want definitive answers to what’s happening at Bly House. That’s left open to interpretation, but enough evidence is presented for both sides as to whether it’s truly haunted or it all occurred in Miss Giddons’ mind.
Reviewed by Matt Cowan