The Turning, 2020.
Directed by Floria Sigismondi
Starring Mackenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard, Brooklynn Prince, Mark Huberman, Niall Greig Fulton, Barbara Marten, Denna Thomsen, and Karen Egan
A young governess is hired by a man who has become responsible for his young nephew and niece after their parents’ deaths. A modern take on Henry James’ novella “The Turn of the Screw.”
Listen up readers (especially the regular followers that are aware I can occasionally be savage when panning something beyond terrible): The Turning is so dreadfully bad that I’m only reviewing it to further spread awareness that literally no one on the planet should go see it. I have no obligations to write about this trash; it was not screened for critics. Yes, Universal was willing to screen Cats and Dolittle to critics but not The Turning. That’s how much of an affront to cinema this horror flick is.
None of this has anything to do with the cast, as it’s actually led by three strong talents (Mackenzie Davis sells the descent into madness fine) doing the best they can with a script from Carey W. Hayes and Chad Hayes (it’s also a loosely based 1990s set adaptation of the classic Henry James novel The Turn of the Screw) that is severely incompetent and literally unfinished. That’s not to say the direction from former 90s rock music video helmer Floria Sigismondi is any better. Sure she can work decently with her photographers to generate a few nice shots here and there that contrast colors well or provide a sense of scale to the massive estate (complete what a hedge maze garden that feels right out of The Shining but never serves a purpose), but the scares are all of the jump cut/loud noise variety that do more than quickly wear out their welcome, but rather become downright exhausting. Considering the film is only 95 minutes, that’s an impressive accomplishment, albeit the wrong kind. I can’t remember the last time I watched on with this much level of indifference and apathy to supernatural presences and psychological head games.
There’s maybe one intriguing line in this boring experience; an elderly maid reminds the new live-in nanny Kate (Mackenzie Davis) that these children were born into privilege. The stern statement comes as Finn Wolfhard’s Miles defies taking his empty plate back to the kitchen. Now, the editing here is a real nightmare, but something does tell me there was intended to be some kind of commentary here before it all got lost to endlessly repetitive sequences of the children terrorizing Kate. Brooklynn Prince plays Flora, a young girl who witnessed her parents die and yet another nanny run away, hence the reason Kate is taking over the job. Some of you will also remember her incredible debut performance in The Florida Project and the questionable upbringing her character was given in that film, and bless her heart for putting in some more good work here, but let’s just say working on this movie might as well be a different form of child abuse.
The Turning isn’t just incomprehensible by the time it reaches its “ending”, no, it can’t even relate basic character details with any proper flow. There are multiple points where it’s not even clear who characters are even though it should be, which is made all the more evident as the simplest of details are confirmed usually a few scenes later. There are also horny ghosts of sexual assaulters (an intriguing concept that bafflingly has no thematic purpose) and downright nasty children, yet for some reason, Kate sticks around like it’s all normal just because she’s committed to giving children better lives. The less said about the subplot involving Kate’s clinically insane mother, the better (it was forced into the movie during re-shoots and it shows)
Still, none of that can prepare one for the greatest crime The Turning commits; it doesn’t really have an ending. No exaggeration, something happens meant to further psychologically confuse the viewer (this entire movie is psychological horror from people that have no idea how to do such a thing) followed by the ending credits rolling over a character doing something. Except it’s not really a conclusion, but reminiscent to one of those recent fakeout video game endings where the credits start rolling with the intention to deeply confuse before pulling the curtains back up for one final chapter; a real ending so to speak. No such thing happens after the credits finish for The Turning. It’s a movie so bad the filmmakers couldn’t be bothered to finish it.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com