THE TURNING (2020) Reviews and overview

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‘Watch the children with care’
The Turning is a 2020 supernatural horror film directed by Floria Sigismondi (Hemlock Grove and many music videos) from a screenplay by Carey W. Hayes and Chad Hayes (The Conjuring; House of Wax [2005]), based on Henry James’ 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw. The Amblin Entertainment / Vertigo Entertainment production stars Mackenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard (IT; Stranger Things) and Brooklynn Prince.

At a mysterious estate in the Maine countryside, appointed nanny Kate (Mackenzie Davis) is charged with the care of two disturbed orphans, Flora (Brooklynn Prince) and Miles (Finn Wolfhard).

Quickly though, she discovers that both the children and the house are harbouring dark secrets and things may not be as they appear.

” …if you have a movie pass, or just want to kill an hour and a half, at least you get a cast worthy of your time – especially Ms Davis who does as much as she can with this script. Just be prepared for unanswered questions, a lazy ending, and weird dream sequences that become annoyingly distracting.” Arrow in the Head

“Really, everyone in The Turning is left high and dry by an ending so baffling that it’s nearly spoiler-proof—to spoil it would require even a rudimentary understanding of what is meant to be happening in its final moments, beyond that it seems to discard the novella’s finale […] The kind of horror-movie crowds that boo at the merest hint of an ambiguous or non-twist ending may well burn theaters showing The Turning straight to the ground.” AV Club

“It’s effectively atmospheric, but the scares are generic and bland. Those already familiar with the source material might find this version a bit sleepy. There’s not much of an emotional connection, either, outside of Davis’ natural charm. Just as the narrative is kicking into high gear, building toward an exciting third act that looks to forge its own path, it stops.” Bloody Disgusting

“Discrepancies between the film and the source material point to the screenwriters having adapted the CliffsNotes version of James’s novel instead and interspersed that with atmospheric set pieces and cheap-shot jump scares. If their work wasn’t so transparently vacuous, there would have been much to mine from this female-gaze update…” Critic’s Notebook

” …I really enjoyed what Sigismondi, as well as screenwriters Carey and Chad Hayes, were able to bring to the table here, with Floria’s visual flair adding a lot to the material, and a trio of strong performances from the film’s lead actors: Mackenzie Davis, Brooklynn Prince, and Finn Wolfhard. Where The Turning ended up falling a bit short for me was in its finale, where the pieces of the narrative’s puzzle don’t quite all lock together…” Daily Dead

“The film attempts to infuse the proceedings with a psychological component, suggesting that Kate might perhaps be going mad. To fuel the notion, it adds a new character, Kate’s institutionalized mother, played by Joely Richardson in what amounts to a glorified cameo. The idea never comes to much, including in the brief climactic scene that seemed to leave the audience at the press screening utterly baffled.” The Hollywood Reporter

The Turning damns itself with good ideas turned bad and a flat-out ugly execution. Its talented cast can’t save it from cheap scares, poorly edited set-pieces, and a bad twist that leaves a worse taste in your mouth.” IGN

“The ever-watchful male gaze, omnipresent but maddeningly difficult to catch, is the real terror in “The Turning.” The film understands that each comment, each leering glance, each unwanted grope builds up to a kind of pulsing madness — yet another turn of the screw.” IndieWire

“Clayton employs visual storytelling to get under your skin, and its most terrifying moments sneak up on you, instilling every scene with dread and keeping the viewer on their toes throughout. Sigismondi’s version relies heavily on lazy jump scares, and too often its heroine verbalises a terror that the film simply fails to communicate visually to the audience.” The Movie Waffler

“It’s the movie’s open-endedness and literary vestiges that sit uneasily with its repetitive goosings, which manifest in exceedingly familiar ways. Ghosts appearing in mirrors. A mannequin that moves on its own. It’s-only-a-dream moments. A bad seed, of sorts, in the form of Flora’s brother, Miles (Finn Wolfhard), who startles Kate by showing up in the middle of the night (boo!) after being expelled from boarding school. The Turning has it all.” The New York Times

“By the time the credits abruptly start rolling, it’s clear that the movie didn’t want to commit to a real ending, so instead, it leaves the audience hanging with no real resolution. Although there are a some stylish and well-crafted shots, in the end, The Turning has too little substance to keep itself going.” Polygon

” …the filmmakers over-stuff the story with superfluous details to contemporize the timeless tale. Things like demarcating the year this takes place (in the mid-’90s, as Gen X dreams dissolved in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s suicide, which is referenced), a #MeToo plot thread, and a deliberately ambiguous ending that’s either confusing or stupidly straightforward depending on the lens through which it’s viewed don’t add up to much.” Variety

Cast and characters:

  • Mackenzie Davis … Kate
  • Finn Wolfhard … Miles
  • Brooklynn Prince … Flora
  • Mark Huberman … Bert
  • Barbara Marten … Mrs. Grose
  • Niall Greig Fulton … TBC
  • Denna Thomsen … TBC

Film Facts:

Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw has previously been used as the basis for films The Innocents (1961) and The Nightcomers (1972), amongst many other adaptations.

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