I usually pride myself of having quite balanced and realistic expectations when it comes to movies, especially horror movies. This, of course, doesn’t depend on any supernatural ability or uncommon instinct. I do my research before watching a horror film: from checking the filmmakers’ CV to reading about the production process to being aware of how much control the studio had over the movie, and so on. Based on these and other similar factors, I rarely wind up disappointed by a shitty horror flick, since it just takes a bit of effort to know (almost) exactly what to expect.
The point of such a big preamble is to sort of justify one simple thing: I included The Turning on my “Most Anticipated Horror Films of 2020” list, I was quite hyped for it, but the movie really sucks! In fact, I usually weigh in on positives and negatives of a film before I give away whether I consider it to be good or bad. Here, though, I feel like very few people might actually enjoy The Turning, which is why I wanted to try and dissuade you guys from spending money to watch this flick.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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The Turning – A new interpretation of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw
Probably due to its abrupt and open ending, the famous novella by Henry James had been adapted for the screen a bunch of times, with very different results. In Floria Sigismondi’s version, we follow Kate (Mackenzie Davis), a young governess hired by a man who has become responsible for his young nephew Miles (Finn Wolfhard) and niece Flora (Brooklynn Prince), after their parents’ death. As one might expect, creepy noises and strange occurrences start happening in the mansion, and only Kate seems to be distressed by that.
I believe the reason why The Turn of the Screw had been adapted so many times is that it features timeless horror conventions that would work in any day and age. In order to achieve a good result, though, a good adaptation to the book should build upon those conventions and avoid turning them into clichés. As you can imagine, The Turning does the exact opposite, resulting in a mere stream of lazy, fake and predictable jump-scares that become tedious after 10/15 minutes. In addition to that, James’ novel features a truly challenging ending that would require a lot of effort and creativity to be translated to film: again, The Turning fails completely at that, due to an ending that’s both extremely disappointing and truly insulting.
Storytelling and characters – a huge failure
Aside from its awful ending, which an IMDb user brilliantly claimed it was done by “adding a twist at the ending and twisting that twist with another twist twice”, the biggest problem with The Turning is that nothing happens throughout the whole movie. Not one thing. The Turning is comprised of a series of boring jump-scares and uninspired sequences that feel cliched and dull.
This is particularly jarring when you are forced to deal with a group of annoying, dumb and obnoxious characters. We don’t know anything about them, which makes it kind of impossible to relate to them in any meaningful way, and they’re also portrayed in such a terrible way by the actors: Finn Wolfhard, which I usually like, is embarrassing in The Turning; Davis’ version of Kate is one-dimensional and over-the-top; Brooklynn Prince’s acting is just jaw-droppingly awful. The only decent performance in the entire movie is offered by Barbara Marten as Mrs. Grose, who does a solid job considering how little material she probably had to work with.
Stumbling towards a disappointing ending
The other positive feature in The Turning is represented by the filmmaking in the first 20 to 30 minutes. Canadian-Italian director Floria Sigismondi has always been able to give quite a distinctive look to the music videos she made, and even her debut film (The Runaways, 2010) has a very energetic visual style. Even though The Turning is largely bland and boring from a visual standpoint, the first act looks quite stylish and purposeful, in a very sombre way. In fact, at the beginning of the movie I was somewhat enthralled by it in terms of cinematography, setting and camera-work. As the minutes went by, though, the visual presentation fell to the level of script and acting.
This progressively getting worse of every aspect in The Turning led to a “grand finale” that is likely to disappoint every single viewer. Aside from feeling abrupt and thrown in, the ending features such a dumb series of twists that’s impossible not to get pissed off at it. It’s so bad I, actually, feel compelled to spoil it… but I won’t, just in case some of you still want to watch this failure of a movie.
All in all…
… The Turning is a very bad movie that couldn’t take any element of quality from its solid source material. A few elements of quality are really not enough to keep horror fans entertained when the rest of the movie is dedicated to boring and pointless scenes, lazy and fake jump-scares, tedious presentation and unbearable protagonists. Trust me: if you really want to watch this movie, please wait until it hits VOD. Don’t waste your money on expensive tickets. Or, if you want to witness a great adaptation of The Turn of the Screw, go straight to Jack Clayton’s The Innocents, which is also a fantastic horror-thriller independently from the novella.
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