Review: The Turning

Year: 2020
Runtime: 94 Minutes
Director: Floria Sigismondi
Writers: Carey & Chad Hayes
Stars: Mackenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard, Brooklynn Prince

By Kate Boyle

Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw is a staple in the horror genre. It’s been adapted into plays, radio show, and several movies. The latest adaptation is Floria Sigismondi’s “The Turning”(2019). This is the first time this story, primarily about a woman and her mental state, is being told solely by a female director.

“The Turning” tells the story of Kate (Mackenzie Davis), a young teacher turned governess for a young girl (Brooklynn Prince) who recently witnessed the tragic death of her parents. The girls troubled and slightly creepy older brother (Finn Wolfhard) is sent home from boarding school shortly after Kate starts her new job. It’s then that Kate starts to notice strange and unexplainable things going on in the house and thinks there may be something sinister or supernatural going on…

“The Turning” wasn’t all bad, the child actors were surprisingly good…Both young actors played their “troubled child” roles well, Wolfhard especially seems to have found his niche in the horror genre.

This film starts off as your typical supernatural or psychological thriller. It’s filled with jump scares, creepy music, creepy children, and an intriguing mystery. Unfortunately, as the film progresses it loses its appeal. The story really takes a dive at the end and without prior knowledge from the novella or previous films, it can leave the viewer feeling confused or upset. The films biggest flaw is its storytelling. They took a well known novella that has been adapted successfully many times, and didn’t do it justice.

There were a lot of storytelling decisions that left me wondering why they chose to do things they way they did. Why was it set in the 1990s? Why the dramatic, out-of-place feeling ending? Is Finn Wolfhard evil or just awkward? What is going on? It was unanswered questions like these that ultimately lead to my low opinion on the film. In the hour and a half I sat watching this film, I felt I didn’t learn much I didn’t already know from the trailers.

“The Turning” was not great. It unfortunately fell victim to that “all January releases are terrible” stereotype.

“The Turning” wasn’t all bad, the child actors were surprisingly good. I had high expectations for Finn Wolfhard because he’s fairly well known at this point, but Brooklynn Prince is only nine years old and I have yet to see her in anything else. Both young actors played their “troubled child” roles well, Wolfhard especially seems to have found his niche in the horror genre. Mackenzie Davis wasn’t terrible either, she carried most of the film on her own and did the best with what she was given. I hope to see her in something else soon that allows her to shine. It really was just the ending that ruined the whole movie for me, the first hour or so was decent.

Overall, “The Turning” was not great. It unfortunately fell victim to that “all January releases are terrible” stereotype. It features good performances from most of the cast, but fails in its storytelling. If you’re familiar with the original novella, you may feel differently but in the end, this film just did not work for me.

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