The 1898 ghost “The Turn of the Screw” by author Henry James, receives a modern-day version in director Floria Sigismondi’ s The Turning from Universal Pictures. Opening with a murderous attack on Miss Jessel (Denna Tjomsen), the live-in tutor of Flora Fairchild (Brooklynn Prince), the film soon introduces us to Kate Mandell (Mackenzie Davis) who is now taking the vacant job.
From the moment Kate arrives at the estate, strange occurrences start to happen, which Kate feels are pranks from Flora’s older brother Miles (Finn Wolfhard). In true horror movie fashion there is a much more significant threat in the home awaiting Kate.
I had minimal expectations for The Turning, as I didn’t think the source material set in modern times would transition well to the big screen. However, as I am a fan of the talent involved in the film, I went in with an open mind. Needless to say, the film is not only one of the worst films of 2020 but one of the worst I’ve ever seen.
Photographer Floria Sigismondi directs her second film, following the 2010 musical biopic The Runaways. Since then, she’s spent her time directing numerous music videos as well as episodes of multiple television series. However, based on the pacing of the film, she should avoid the horror genre.
To my dismay and shock, the script for the film comes from twin brothers Chad and Carey W. Hayes, who have experience in the horror genre. The duo wrote their first two films in vastly superior “Conjuring” series. Sadly, the script for The Turning comes off as something that a first-year film student would write. There aren’t any real character arcs, nor are there any jump scares.
Generally, I don’t use the terms “worst ever” when it comes to discerning my dislike for any film. Most of the time, I can find one thing I like in a movie, ironically that wasn’t the case with The Turning. From its terribly slow pace to its mediocre acting, The Turning is a prime example of a lot of nothingness.
There are moments that you think something is going to happen, but the ideas lead up to nothing. I don’t know if the film was trying to use mental illness as an allegory for the film’s plot, but whatever it was trying to do, it fails on all levels. Mackenzie Davis and Finn Wolfhard, both fresh off a performance in a two-franchise picture (Davis in Terminator: Dark Fate and Wolfhard in It: Chapter 2) genuinely disappoint. Maybe this one was a paycheck movie, but one thing is for sure, both need to fire their agents after this, as it will serve as a blemish on their otherwise impressive acting resumes.
As other reviewers have mentioned, the films ending is one of the worst horror endings in recent memory. The last time I had a look on my face that screamed utter disappointment was The Devil Inside. If there is one thing I can’t stand in a horror film, it’s an abrupt conclusion, and The Turning does just that.
In terms of studio releases, January has become a dumping ground for movies that studios usually have no regard for in terms of success. It’s clear that Universal’s attempt to make this terrible movie appear suitable in hopes the horror audience will see it regardless, didn’t work this time. Avoid this one at all costs.
Final Grade F