x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

In a Dark Place

Based, in the crassest possible way, on Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, the director Donato Rotunno drags subtext into the light and marches it ploddingly across the screen.

A screwy turn of events: <i>In a Dark Place</i>.
A screwy turn of events: In a Dark Place.


Anna (Leelee Sobieski) is an art teacher who, as the film begins, gets fired from her job for being over-involved with her students. Fortunately, another job presents itself almost immediately, taking care of two children who have been left in the custody of an uncaring and absent uncle after the death of their parents. The children live on an isolated estate with Miss Grose, the uncle's secretary (Tara Fitzgerald), an icy and not especially reassuring presence. Shortly after Anna's arrival the boy, Miles, is expelled from boarding school for an unexplained offence. Then Anna learns that the children's last nanny drowned in the lake, and she begins to see mysterious figures lurking in the grounds of the estate. If that sounds like a promising set-up it's of no credit to anyone involved here, because the film is based, in the crassest possible way, on Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. The director Donato Rotunno drags subtext into the light and marches it ploddingly across the screen. Once the basic elements of the plot are in place, it collapses into an exploitative mess. It's particularly apparent how bad it is because the isolated house/creepy children/possibly unhinged woman ghost story invites comparisons with The Others and The Orphanage, both of which used the supernatural to explore psychological themes and expose dark secrets with much more class and subtlety.
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