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  • Writer's pictureMaxwell J.

Review: Frustrating and Unimaginative, The Turning (2020) Will Conjure Annoyance More Than Scares

Updated: May 8, 2021

The latest adaptation of Henry James’ novella ‘The Turn of the Screw’ crept into theaters this weekend. Director Floria Sigismondi’s The Turning follows Kate, played by Mackenzie Davis, who travels to Blythe Manor to care for two thoroughbred children, Miles and Flora, played by Finn Wolfhard and Brooklynn Prince respectively. Kate realizes something is amiss during her stay when she hears peculiar noises and eyes distressing sights at night. The children do not seem to be all together either. Miles has a temper and constantly makes inappropriate remarks. Flora explodes like a firecracker at some of the most benign of gestures. It seems like it is up to Kate to figure out what is happening, or what happened, on the estate before something much worse befalls the kids or herself. Unfortunately, the worse fate falls on any audience member who agrees to pay $10.50 to watch this film.

Let’s start with what's good. The Turning features a cast of capable actors that do their best with the material given. Prince’s Flora, in particular, is an exceptional actress for her age. It was a joy to watch her really commit to her character and add depth to a sadly shallow movie. Wolfhard too could have transcended the script, if only he was given a little bit more material to chew. After wowing audiences in both Stranger Things and It, it is evident that his charm cannot fix a broken what is already broken, a line parroted by Miles towards the film’s conclusion. The Turning’s tone is also executed fairly competently. The atmosphere is dark, moody, and very reminiscent of the gothic horror the filmmakers tried desperately to re-create. The grounds and the mansion feel very real, which adds an extra layer to the ominous tone this film attempts to achieve. Each scene was set up for success, between the massive estate and the great use of color and light, but consistently led to nowhere. There is very little exploration of the property, which could have opened the doors to plenty of great material.

I could rant about the many failures of The Turning. The lack of organic scares, the jumbled editing, the bizarre gaps in logic, are a few obvious ones that come to mind. To me, however, the most unforgivable part of The Turning is its ending. That statement is actually more generous than it should be given that The Turning does not have a true ending. Several theatergoers in my viewing audibly expressed their confusion and frustration once the credits began to roll. Their indignation is justified. The Turning’s ending is a copout and one that filmmakers are probably ready to rationalize under the guise of “making audiences think.” Ambiguous endings are perfectly okay, and are, in fact, some of my favorite ways to end a film. I love an ending that leaves much to interpretation and gets me thinking about what I just experienced. The Turning, on the other hand, offered neither appropriate narrative buildup and foreshadowing nor a clever or original twist to reasonably end the way it did. It was a lot like riding a roller coaster to the very top of the hill, only to find out that the ride ends once you reach the top. Then after you disembark you are troubled with walking yourself down 500 feet to the ground. It was empty, irritating, and unsatisfying.

Continuing the trend of lackluster films being released in January, The Turning offers nothing new, exciting, or engaging with its take on James’ source material. There are better ghost stories out there and you don’t even have to fumble around in the dark to find them.

Overall Score? 4/10

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