Review: The Turning

Director(s)Floria Sigismondi
Principal CastMackenzie Davis as Kate
Finn Wolfhard as Miles
Brookylnn Prince as Flora
Barbara Marten as Mrs.Grose
Release Date2020
Running Time 94 minutes

January horror is something special. The Grudge disappointed me. Underwater surprised me. I went into The Turning not knowing what to expect. I left the theater confused and shocked. I personally enjoyed the movie, but think the litany of flaws and issues makes it impossible to recommend outside of a few niche people that can find enjoyment in less than ideal movies.

The story follows Kate, a teacher who takes on a new position as a live-in tutor for a young girl, Flora. As she begins her position and becomes acquainted with her new student, thing start going bump in the night. Soon after, Flora’s brother, Miles drops on in and the absurdity ramps up even harder. In fact, the movie constantly builds up to its climactic reveal. There were multiple times where I thought I had a theory of what happened, but then something else would happen that would contradict what I thought. Then within the last TEN minutes of the movie, the rug is pulled out from the audience’s feet and after a few WTF scenes, the movie ends. The audience at my theater burst out into a sea of “Huhs”, “What just happened?”, and “Are you f*$king me?”. I may not remember the movie, but the ending is something that will stay with me. It’s hard to even categorize as good or bad because it just is.

A lot of the issues in the movie stem from a huge identity crisis. The movie want to teeter on the edge of psychological and supernatural. It wants the audience to not be sure. The issue is that instead of ambiguous directing that hints that there might be more at hand, every hint towards one genre or the other is heavy handed. They explicitly make the genre present as opposed to debatable which takes away a ton of the nuance. This problem becomes even more egregious in the third act, where certain characters start bringing up plot points that were barely touched on before. It feels like the movie didn’t want to commit to any path so it tried to be everything. The result is a mess that’s incomprehensible. It’s disappointing because the movie does a lot well.

For example, I think all the performances are on point. Mandell starts off bubbly and enthusiastic at the opportunity to teach and it comes off genuine (if a little too excited). She slowly becomes a wreck during the movie and feels just as confused as the audience (which definitely helps relate). Both Wolfhard and Prince are great as the kids. They bounce off each other well and I can totally believe their sibling relationship. I loved Wolfhard in this movie. He’s usually the nice/funny kid but here he’s a total creeper. Weird lines, ominous edge, aggressive tendencies – he displays it all with gusto.

The movie is also shot and scored well. The camera is steady and there are a lot of picturesque scenes. I expected more shaky cam and jump scares, but the movie is fairly good at scares. There are jump scares, but none of them are patently false. Scares also linger in the background with noise, so you’re always asking yourself if you saw something move. Nathan Barr’s score is also great.

If the elements were just put together in a more coherent plot, I think the movie could’ve been something special. I personally love weird, ambiguous movies that are open to interpretation. The movie either needed to commit to the heart of the mystery it wanted to tell and then make the hints related to the same OR it needed to be consistent in direction at showing certain phenomena (this makes more sense in the spoiler section).

Report Card

TLDRThe Turning is a movie that tries to be too many things and fails to be anything. It’s a suspenseful, harrowing journey that unfortunately doesn’t go anywhere. If you’re okay with awful/incoherent endings or like weird ambiguous movies there might be something here for you. I liked it and still think the movie leaves a lot to be desired. I do think waiting for a rental might be the move though.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

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