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‘The Turning’ review: a muddled mess of a horror film

This modern take on Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw likely won’t turn you into a fan.

Wow. I haven’t seen a film this sloppy in quite some time. A lot of times with horror films like this that are released in January, the issue is that they’re simply boring and overly cliché. The central problem that plagues The Turning isn’t that it’s too predictable or cliché, it’s that it’s a narrative mess. This film tries at a couple points to do some interesting things, but then it just sort of throws its hands in the air and doesn’t know what to do. There are glimmers of an entertaining, clever horror/thriller here, but the script is so all over the place that it’s impossible to be effective.

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The start of the film had me thinking that it would just be forgettable and would follow the familiar horror film formula. The beginning is very typical and has a strong been there, seen that type of feeling. The opening scene features a character running out of the creepy house frightened by something, then we cut to our leading lady who is preparing to leave to go be the new live in nanny. I assumed that things would unravel naturally and she’d of course start seeing things and then we’d have a reveal and predictable third act. Well things don’t exactly wind up that way, and you’d think that would be good — a January horror film not taking that predictable route sounds like a good plan and it for sure is… but The Turning doesn’t know how to effectively tell a story. This script is so messy and convoluted that it ends up not committing to any story in particular and leaves you feeling confused and disappointed. Like I mentioned in the opening, I recognized what they were trying to do and say towards the end, but they didn’t earn it. The ending tries to suggest something and that something would’ve been clever if the film had built it up properly. 

If you’re going to end on a clever twist, the rest of the film leading up to that twist has to be focused and interesting. A good twist ending must be earned and this film earns nothing but maybe some Razzie nominations. There’s also some plot devices used that seem like they’re important and the film treats them like they’re important but then they’re dropped and nothing is done with them. Unfortunately this film’s bad script isn’t all of it’s problems. Some of the editing and direction is rather confusing and too jumpy. There are a couple scenes in particular where the camera jumps around so much that it’s hard to clearly see what’s happening and that just comes across as either lazy or inexperienced. Also, for a “horror” movie this isn’t very scary at all. I don’t think I jumped or even flinched once. Some of the visuals look pretty cheap too, too fake/CGI looking. To be honest the only positive thing about The Turning is some of the cast members. 

Finn Wolfhard is a talented young actor and I thought he did quite well with the less than satisfactory material he had to work with. I enjoyed him a lot in the It films and look forward to seeing him in the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Mackenzie Davis is fine, to be quite honest she didn’t blow me away but with what she was given material wise, it could’ve been a good bit worse. Brooklynn Prince is an impressive child actress and I thought she was very good for being so young. Joely Richardson shows up in two scenes and has like three or four minutes of screen time which is a shame because she’s a very talented actress and gets absolutely nothing to do here. I suspect this will be one of the films all these actors try to hide on their resumes. 

It’s a real shame this film is such a narrative mess because this cast deserves better material but all I can hope is that studios stop greenlighting sloppy scripts like this. Don’t waste your time or money on seeing The Turning in theaters and don’t even rent it when it comes out… quite frankly my dear this film just doesn’t give a damn… so why should you?

Is it good?
The Turning lets down its capable cast by giving them a messy script that doesn't know what to do with them.
Finn Wolfhard
Brooklynn Prince
Messy script
Sloppy film editing
Jumpy camera work
Joely Richardson is completely wasted
3
Meh
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