One of the first Hollywood horrors to hit theaters in 2020 is THE TURNING, a modern day adaptation of The Turn of The Screw, a ghost story from 1898 written by Henry James. Written by Carey and Chad Hayes and directed by Floria Sigismondi, the film tells the story of a young woman who is hired to teach and take care of a young girl after her parents die. Upon her arrival to the property, she learns that not only is she taking care of the young girl, but she will also be responsible for her older brother as well. Before long, things around the property take a bizarre, twisted turn that almost drives the teacher to quit the job entirely, but she sticks through it even though with each passing day, the mental and physical torture she endures seems to be getting worse. The film has been getting some pretty dreadful reviews the last few days, and after finally getting a chance to see it after weeks of anticipation, I can see why the reviews are typically negative. The film is beautifully done: the shots are gorgeous, the score is eerily beautiful, the acting is superb, even the few jumpscares it has are quality. So why is the film so hard to enjoy for so many? It's ending is abrupt and unsatisfying, and the payoff doesn't feel like it's worth the time invested in the rest of the film. With an exceptional mind bending ending, The Turning could have set the bar unbelievably high as one of the first horrors to hit mainstream theaters this year. But unfortunately, the film misses this mark - and what's crazy is, that's exactly how the film was supposed to be.
Kate - played by Mackenzie Davis - is the teacher turned governess that is enlisted to help watch over seven year old Flora (Brooklynn Prince). Flora shares with Kate the story that the woman who was working there before her suddenly upped and disappeared from the house, and Flora shares how it broke her heart. After promising to never do the same, Kate settles into the house before finding out that Flora's brother Miles (played by Finn Wolfhard of It and Stranger Things) was expelled from school and will be at home with the two of them and Mrs. Grose, the caretaker of the property. What follows is countless days and nights of mind games, mental torture, and madness for Kate, as she believes Miles is purposely messing with her head. As she gets driven to the point of insanity, secrets are revealed, supernatural activity begins to rear its head, and Kate's descent into madness grows deeper by the moment. What is the truth behind Bly Manor and its residents?
Like I said, everything about The Turning is pretty stellar - I thoroughly enjoyed it the film up until the final five minutes. Bly Manor itself is a breath-taking landscape, from its castle-like exterior to its The Shining-esque maze to its koi pond and stables, nothing about the film is ugly. The acting - namely those of the two children by Prince and Wolfhard - is exceptionally awesome, and as much as I loved Prince's adorable performance as the cute little girl, Wolfhard as Miles was nothing short of phenomenal. Creepy kids freak me the fuck out, and everything about Wolfhard - from his mannerisms to his tantrums and his words - is freaky as hell. I'd even go as far as to say that his performance is one of my favorite crazy-kid performances since 2009's The Orphan. You'll find yourself waiting for his appearance in every scene, waiting for his next weird remark or unsettling look on his face. Not trying to take away the great acting by Prince, by this young dude is killing it the last few years. Overall, The Turning is a legitimately enjoyable flick with tons of great things going for it... until you reach that dreaded ending everyone cannot stop talking about. Without giving too much away, let me just say this: if you do decide to see the movie, do some research online afterwards. Dive a little deeper into the novel the film is based off of, and read other peoples opinions and interpretations. In doing so, you'll see why the studio did what they did in regards to the ending. Does that make it better? Honestly, no - it's a little frustrating they couldn't come up with something to bring the whole movie full circle, and for your everyday movie goer, they expect that. Many people won't mind a slow burn, low action movie as long as the payoff is worth it; and when it comes to The Turning, the payoff is just missing. It's a letdown that is hard to look past and therefore hard to recommend the film to others. It's a very niche audience that will really both appreciate and enjoy the closing scenes to the movie.
So would I recommend The Turning to the cult? If you have to spend money, it would have to be a hard no. If it pops up on Netflix in a few months and you want something in the background while you play on your phone, sure - but keep in mind the feeling of being unfulfilled that you will undoubtedly experience upon the abrupt completion of the film. Just something to think about. Watch the film and enjoy Finn Wolfhard's awesome performance as Miles, that alone will make the film worth your time. Oh, and the trailer has things that you will never see in the movie, so that's a thing.