Movie Review: THE TURNING Starring Mackenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard, Brooklynn Prince
Floria Sigismondi, a seasoned music video director, helmed the latest take on the classic novella by Henry James (The Turning of the Screw) with this weekend’s release of The Turning. The film, which suggests it’s the year 1994 with a news report on the death of Curt Cobain (among other things, such as a landline and cassette tapes,) follows Kate Mandell, played by Mackenzie Davis, as she accepts a position as a live-in tutor for a pair of orphans. The children, Flora and Miles, played by Finn Wolfhard and Brooklynn Prince, live in an estate with the caretaker Mrs. Grose, played by Barbara Marten.
Upon her arrival at the estate, Kate becomes acquainted with the children, immediately bonding with Flora, but seemingly off to a rough start with Miles, who seems troubled and quite odd. Unaware of why the first live-in tutor suddenly abandoned her post, and some foggy details of the manor’s past – Kate starts to believe something more sinister might be lurking within the darkness hidden in the house. With a history of family illness, she begins to wonder if she is losing her mind or an evil presence is preying on her and the children.
The film doesn’t take long to pick up, but definitely is a slow burner, as is the original story, hence the importance of its title. While the trailer cut for the feature looked like the plot would be filled with a variety of jump scares and paranormal occurrences, it was surprising to see that this wasn’t the case. The jump scares were sporadic and random, and the apparitions were blurry, uninspired, and lacked any horrific elements.
The movie itself wasn’t bad, but could have used some polishing. Regardless, the performances were fantastic, with Finn Wolfhard playing into a new kind of role that sees him as an intimidating and predating child, causing the audience to feel uncomfortable each time he interacts with Kate. Brooklynn Prince was fantastic as Flora, bringing a bubbly and charismatic element to the screen. While the feature was intended to be dark, I found myself smiling during her scenes.
Up until the end, I wasn’t completely disregarding the film. It had likable moments, the casting was good, and it might not have been a great horror release that will be causing buzz with critics, but it certainly was somewhat enjoyable – that is, until its very confusing, open-ended and bizarre finale. The last five minutes before the credits began to roll were unnecessary and left the audience in a confused state. In simpler terms, it didn’t make any sense. I was left starring at the screen wondering “Why? What? Who?,” and every other question imaginable. While the original story is meant to leave the reader with some questions, the implied ending is still suggested. This is not the case with Sigismondi’s film, though. It left little impression, causing it to become lost in the sea of forgettable horror films that nobody will be talking about in a few short weeks.
The story by Henry James has been adapted countless times, and while this might be the first installment in 2020 of the reimagining of the classic novella, it won’t be the last, as the follow-up to The Haunting of Hill House will see a second season in the anthological series by Mike Flanagan inspired by the novella titled The Haunting of Bly Manor. So, while The Turning might have left many audience members unsatisfied and confused, there’s still hope that Flanagan will do the story justice with his Netflix release.
The Turning manages to earn a C