Following its premiere at the 2020 Los Angeles Film Festival, supernatural horror The Turning is distributed in cinemas by Universal. A loose adaptation of the horror novella The Turn of the Screw, the film follows Kate Mandell (Mackenzie Davis) as she becomes a live-in tutor on the Fairchild Estate. Although young Flora Fairchild (Brooklynn Prince) is generally a delight, there is something creepy about her older brother Miles (Finn Wolfhard). However, a number of seemingly supernatural little things add up to give Kate reason to believe that the enormous house is haunted by a presence that poses a threat to both herself and the children.
- It may only be about 95 minutes long, but the narrative is a real slog to sit through. It is 75 minutes of set-up – lots of little things that you expect to lead to a reveal, but which do not, punctuated by loads of lazy jump scares which will not even make the viewer jump. Furthermore, the dialogue feels very forced, and the screenplay is full of lazy uses of horror genre cliches. After this, we get 15-20 minutes which do not actually provide any resolution or give us any answers. At absolute best it is a half-hearted attempt to set-up a sequel but, either way, it is impossible to watch this film and not feel insulted by the laziness of the screenwriting, and the assumptions that cinemagoers will just happily lap up anything, regardless of quality.
- Very poorly realised characters, with a botched attempt to make Miles emotionally complex, no real attempt to give Kate an emotional arc (despite making indications regarding her backstory), and housekeeper/guardian Mrs Grose (Barbara Marten) is a very one-note character. The lack of characterisation is also no doubt partly responsible for (certainly some of) the poor quality performances – Mackenzie Davis and Finn Wolfhard both give wooden, career-worst performances, both seeming bored and completely uninvested in film and characters alike, which frankly sucks to see.
- Director Floria Sigismondi has a seemingly non-existent vision, and this comes through in the completely inconsistent tone and poor attempt at atmosphere. There are no real stakes here, no genuine sense that the characters are actually in genuine danger until the final few minutes, plus the fact that the film becomes a bit more light-hearted quite suddenly during some darker moments means that the tone is (at best) muddled. As for atmosphere, most exterior scenes are grey and misty, but a number of the long shots of the house and grounds in the mist have a grainier and somewhat more out-of-focus quality.
- Brooklynn Prince gives a decent performance, while Barbara Marten is suitably cold as Mrs Grose.