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The Turning Review

January 31, 2020 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
The Turning movie review
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The Turning Review  

Directed By: Floria Sigismondi
Written By: Chad and Carey W. Hayes; Based on the novel The Turning of the Screw by Henry James
Runtime: 94 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for terror, violence, disturbing images, brief strong language and some suggestive content

Mackenzie Davis – Kate Mandell
Finn Wolfhard – Miles Fairchild
Brooklynn Prince – Flora Fairchild
Barbara Marten – Mrs. Grose
Joely Richardson – Mrs. Mandell
Niall Greig Fulton – Quint

The Turning is a loose modern adaptation of the 1898 Henry James novella, The Turn of the Screw. Unfortuantely, it’s an attempt that brings nothing new to the table and merely amounts to an amateurish attempt to copy the success of the Blumhouse low-budget horror method. The results are only terrifying in how bad this movie is.

In April 1994, which is marked with the radio announcement of Kurt Cobain’s death, Kate Mandell is getting ready to start her new job as the live-in tutor for the wealthy heiress Flora Fairchild (Prince). It’s not long after she arrives at the Fairchild manor and estate that things are already looking very eerie and ominous, with the one million red flags it sends out. Flora seems friendly enough, but their caretaker, Mrs. Grose (Marten), is rather aloof, and her older brother, Miles (Wolfhard), is an edgelord creep who looks like he just discovered The Omen and thought Damien was the coolest character.

There are appear to be some malevolent powers about the manor that are stalking Kate and possibly Flora. This dark influence appears to be taking influence over Miles as well, if they haven’t already. Despite all the warning signs of the manor being a smorgasbord for evil spirits, Kate seems determined to continue her role as Flora’s tutor and potential protector.

There’s very little that’s actually redeeming or interesting about The Turning. Admittedly, some of the exterior shots around the Fairchild manor and estate do look impressive. But those are few and far between. While the manor has an impressive exterior and architecture, the inside looks merely plain and old. Nothing really looks haunted or eerie about the house, and it looks even smaller on the inside. Filmmaker Sigismondi does very little to build and exploit the location and really create an impressive haunted house location.

The setting of 1994 is absolutely useless and pointless. Outside of the arbitrary setup, the screenplay by Chad and Carey W. Hayes do nothing with with this setup. Perhaps there needed to be an explanation for the lack of cellphones or tablets, but setting the narrative in 1994 adds literally nothing of note to the experience.

The Turning‘s gravest offense is the complete and utter lack of a third act. Basically, the movie has no climax and no actual ending. In fact, the way the movie finishes causes the biggest reaction out of anything but the entire 94-minute runtime, and it wasn’t any type of terror. What’s there, complete with an idiotic credit sequence, only inspires rage. It’s a painfully shoehorned, telegraphed way to attempt a big plot twist that utterly falls flat on its face. The way the credit sequence teases the audience with more imagery, that mostly looks out of context to the rest of the film is even more infuriating.

Clint Eastwood’s overrated Sully was a film that had an abrupt ending. It was a film that basically stops about midway through its third act and failed to really supply an actual satisfying conclusion. However, at least that film was somewhat watchable until it just abruptly stops. There’s very little that’s actually redeeming about The Turning to keep the audience anchored until its total non-ending and finish.

This is unfortunate for Mackenzie Davis. She’s a decent actress, but she is given nothing to work with here. The script only makes Kate more unlikable as her reactions to all the eerie phenomenon that are happening are so muted and strange. The child actors, Wolfhard and Prince, do not add much to the film other than being creepy kids in a haunted house story. Miles treats Kate so horribly throughout the film, and she never stands up for herself. Barbara Marten is somewhat passable as the Fairchild’s creepy nanny. She probably would’ve fared better in a superior film with a stronger script, but The Turning does not make good use of her talents.

The Turning is a clumsy, awkward and amateurish take on the classic Henry James horror novella. The horror genre is a versatile one because it generally does not require a lot of money to create a compelling product. The Turning is a low-budget mess that looks like it cost less than it probably did. This film is a slog.

The final score: review Extremely Horrendous
The 411
The Turning is easily an early candidate for Worst Movie of the Year, and quite possibly the decade too. Floria Sigismondi stumbles and staggers to the movie's infuriating non-ending for an insulting adaptation of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. The only redeeming thing about the movie is some neat exterior shots of the mansion, but that's about it. This movie is 94 minutes that will never be returned.