Review: “The Turning”

January is movie dumping ground with weak attempt at horror


I was relieved when I walked out of the movie theater after watching “The Turning” since my one hour and 40 minute period of suffering had ended.

“The Turning” is a movie adaptation of Henry James novella “The Turn of the Screw,” taking place in a more modern setting. 

The story starts with a past nanny, Miss Jessel, running from the haunting Fairchild Estate. As she reaches the gate to escape the property she is suddenly attacked and murdered by an unkempt man. 

Floria Sigismondi, the director of “The Turning,” does a wonderful job of opening the movie with one of the biggest cliches in the horror genre. After the opener, the audience is greeted with Kate Mandell (Makenzie Davis) who is a teacher looking to take up Miss Jessel’s old job as a governess of Flora Fairchild (Brooklynn Prince) at the Fairchild Estate. 

As Mandell enters the Fairchild Estate, she is greeted by the caretaker, Mrs. Grose, who has been caring for the Fairchild family for decades. Grose tells Mandell how Flora’s parents died in a horrific car crash with Flora in the car. Mendell is sent to the stables to find Flora. Here the audience receives one of the many jumpscares to come in the film that failed to create any audience reaction. The scenes leading to these scares are always too obvious to really create moments of tension, ruining the intended effect. The jumpscares that are actually well thought out are ruined by high pitched screams that are amplified by the audio director. 

While Flora gives Mandell a tour of the house they cross a hallway leading into what Flora calls the “East Wing.” Mendell asks about the wing and Flora tells her that they shouldn’t enter that part of the house, which of course sounds ominous. Unfortunately, that factor is never mentioned again. This is one of many red herrings in the movie. An idea is presented to the viewer, but then just feels forgotten, like the screenwriter put it in by mistake and forgot to edit it out.

In Mandell room, the preserved body of Grandma Fairchild sits on a stand in the corner, ominously staring at the bed. Flora tells Mandell that the family had her grandmother stuffed, but that she shouldn’t be scared because she is “beautiful.” After this scene, the grandmother is never mentioned again in the film. 

During her first night, Mandell decided to move the body into the closet. In the closet, we find the “mannequin room”, another major horror cliche. After Mandell leaves the closet the camera centers on the grandmother’s head and it suddenly turns with a generic loud noise to accompany it.  

Over the next few nights, Mandell experiences weird and spine-tingling encounters that would make anyone with a sliver of common sense just leave the house. However, the governess’s optimism gets the best of her when she decides to try and make a difference in the orphan child’s life. 

Soon after Flora’s teenage brother, Miles (Finn Wolfhard), shows up out of the blue. Mandell is phoned by Miles’ boarding school to learn that he was expelled for assaulting another student. Yet another dead-end in the film. 

After Miles shows up the rest of the movie kind of melts together, with nothing being especially memorable or even enjoyably dumb.

While Flora has conversations with ghosts and Finn acts like a stalker-in-training in his obsessions toward Mandell, the audience waits for the plotline to go somewhere. Instead, we just get weird noises that sound like they were created in a garbage disposal. 

The climax of the movie leaves the audience in a state of confusion and frustration instead of a terrifying feeling. Honestly, it’s hard to even remember. Nothing stood out as the great climactic moment, everything ended up feeling lazy and poorly thought out.

One thing that Sigismondi does right is the decor of the house. The creepy atmosphere house gives off a “Shining” vibe which gives the audience a classic horror movie feel. 

In the end, none of it can save the movie from its own incomprehensible storytelling throughout the movie.