A Disappointing Horror
Based on the 1898 serial novella Turn Of The Screw, The Turning wastes what promising potential it has with a film that descends into a jump-scare laden disappointment. It’s a particularly bitter pill to swallow because there’s a lot of promise here, both in the stylistic cinematography and some decent performances from the main cast. The score is suitably creepy and all of this is promising enough to keep this one afloat until the film stumbles through its ill-conceived screenplay into its spectacularly bad ending.
The film opens with a particularly intriguing scene before the story cuts to our main protagonist Kate Mandell. Hired as the new Governess for a large, ominous mansion, Kate accepts the proposition and is tasked with watching over the two children who live there, Flora and Miles. The early parts of the film see the relationship between this trio grow and early on there are warning signs that something isn’t quite right. As the film reaches its halfway point, the slow-burn build is sapped away and in its place bumbles a jump-scare riddled second act that stutters into a really poor ending that tries to be clever but winds up as nonsensical and half-baked.
These issues spill over to the pacing of the film, which takes far too long building up to the midway point yet when it gets there, increases frenetically to deliver a mundane ghost story. There’s little in the way of atmosphere or slow-build horror during these segments and most of the frights are reduced further by the sheer number of jump scares. If you haven’t checked out by this point, you’ll be graced by an ending that’ll undoubtedly leave a sour taste in your mouth and an incredulous reply to the person sat next to you of “wait…was that it?”
Beyond the poor script and pacing, The Turning isn’t a complete disaster. The cinematography is really well done, there’s some nice camera work here and the long, drawn out scenes with the kids to open the film does add an unsettling air of uneasiness to a lot of the artsy imagery. It’s helped further by the musical score too which is fantastic, doing a wonderful job of building up to scares that unfortunately never arrive.
Ultimately though, The Turning turns the screw on its source material to deliver a truly disappointing film. It’s one that looks pretty enough, flaunting some style and creepiness, but in doing so parading as an empty shell devoid of substance. It’s a shame but unfortunately The Turning will be a tough one to beat for a top contender among 2020’s worst films.