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Darkness, creepy doll parts and dirty mirrors isn’t enough. | THE TURNING: Review

(from left) Miles (Finn Wolfhard), Flora (Brooklynn Prince) and Kate (Mackenzie Davis) in “THE TURNING,” directed by Floria Sigismondi. | © Universal Pictures 2020

What if the person telling you a story can’t be trusted, because they are intentionally lying or because their vision of reality is tweaked? This is the premise of Henry James’ disturbing novel, “The Turn of the screw.” The mysterious tale, combined with gothic imagery and storytelling that has fascinated many for a long time, and adapted into an opera, a ballet, a Broadway show, television movies and feature film, most notably 1961’s THE INNOCENTS starting Deborah Kerr. 

THE TURNING centers on a nanny, Kate (Mackenzie Davis), who begins to suspect that the orphans In her care are being haunted by a malicious entity, and that their Maine house, Bly estate, holds the secret to an act of horrific violence against the children’s previous governess, who vanished without a trace. However, due to Kate’s personal history, doubt ensues, turning it into a tug-of-war between what’s real and what’s not.  

Written by Chad and Carey Hayes, the bros behind THE CONJURING, the ripened narrative was given an upgrade. One that entails the 90s, placing it in a timeframe where modern tech like smart phones or advanced internet was nonexistent. You’d think this throwback approach would lead to a stylistic display of supernatural atrocities, right?

THE TURNING doesn’t put the horr in horror. It puts the horr in horrible! I will say it’s decent enough in terms of generating a spooky atmosphere. It provides creepy settings, dysfunctional kids, a freaky looking governess, and an unsettling score to help elevate chills. It started off promising, but it gets lost in its own haunting. The film’s turn (pardon the pun) hits as soon as the script starts to unfurl an incoherent display of scenarios, making this would-be interesting psychological fright flick into a silly mishmash of cheap jump scares, horror clichés, and an abrupt “WTF?!?” ending. An ending that feels like you literally got up and just left.   

The film will hit its marks for its core “genre” audience. Those who thrive off of mood-setting, atmospheric, high on the creep-o-meter appeals. No doubt they’ll find their liking towards THE TURNING. However, it’s not really geared in a way that really puts the fear of God with its general audience. In other words, this won’t scare the pantalones off you. If I had to describe THE TURNING, it’d be the following: AN AMERICAN HAUNTING, intertwined with THE OTHERS, with an ending worse than THE VILLAGE! That’s just me. In the end, you’re the judge.

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Rated: PG-13

Run Time: 95 Minutes

Starring: Mackenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard, Brooklynn Prince, Joely Richardson

Directed by: Floria Sigismondi

Official Movie Website:

© Universal Pictures 2020