“The Turning” is as bland as a January horror film can get. Being another adaptation of the 1898 horror novel “The Turn of the Screw,” “The Turning” retains a lot of the dark, disturbing and intriguing material, but the execution is nowhere near where it needed to be to keep the viewer on edge.
The book is known as a disturbing and intoxicating experience, and that’s not what this film is. The experience is annoyingly tedious. The premise of the story is very simple: Kate Mandell, played by Mackenzie Davis, is hired to oversee Flora Fairchild, played by Brooklynn Prince, and Miles Fairchild, played by Finn Wolfhard, at their vast estate while something more sinister and paranormal is at play. Once the mystery is revealed, it’s hard to not be disappointed considering the great material at hand.
Davis and co-star Prince are what makes this film somewhat bearable. Their chemistry together is extraordinary. There’s a moment later in the film where Kate consoles Flora and teaches her how to use her brave face. The context of both characters’ troubled pasts elevates the scene even higher. Both have very promising careers ahead of them.
It’s Wolfhard whose performance is the most questionable. His performance is cheesy, and his line delivery is hammy. This could be for multiple reasons: either he’s actually proving he isn’t that great of an actor or his dialogue and director are failing him. Whether it was one or the other, it’s a performance that will have the audience rolling their eyes.
The major flaw “The Turning” has is the story structure. The beginning is perfectly fine as it sets up the characters and the plot. The rest of the film is essentially just one long second act. It’s nothing but repeated acts of conflict. Then the film, in its last 15 minutes, has the audacity to pull off a twist met with an ending that’s both pointless and unsatisfying. There’s no ending and no finality.
Also, the horror aspects of the film would disappoint any fan of the horror genre. The scares are plenty but are extremely telegraphed and stereotypical. Once the film establishes its story, the script feels the need to drown the viewer in jumpscare after jumpscare, and it gets old quickly.
“The Turning” may not be the worst January release to start 2020, but it’s up there. Davis and Prince prove to be a great fit together — everything else that goes into making a film or a horror film is incomplete. The film was a failure as soon as the first act ended.