In the long history of horror, creepy kids and old mansions have always been sources of immense terror, and putting them together often proves to be a lethal combination. Utilizing both of these elements, The Turning seeks to adapt a 19th Century story into a “modern” setting.
And while the scares and tension remain rampant throughout, it’s very likely going to be up for debate on whether or not the final film delivered on what it tried to do. So let’s take a dive into this haunted pool of a film!
Minor Spoilers Ahead
The film begins like so many that came before, with Kate (Mackenzie Davis) arriving at a large estate to be a live-in governess to a 2nd grader named Flora (Brooklynn Prince), but she must also deal with Flora’s entitled and sociopathic teenage brother Miles (Finn Wolfhard), as well as an incredibly judgmental housekeeper Mrs. Grose (Barbara Marten).
Right away, it’s clear that something isn’t quite right. While Kate and Flora initially hit it off, disturbing secrets of the past keep rearing their ugly heads, and all bets are off when Miles returns home after being expelled from his boarding school.
Kate delves into the tragic story of what happened to Flora’s last governess and discovers that she herself is not safe there. Despite the genuinely decent scares and creepy environment, the film only succeeds in enraging its audience by having it all build towards nothing at all!
Major Spoilers Ahead
“Attempted” European Expressionism
We get a tense climax that’s all revealed to have not really occurred, just for us to question Kate’s mental state. This was foreshadowed by her mother, but there’s not enough time or energy devoted to this subplot to make it worthy enough for the final payoff.
And likewise, the ending we do get, while visually interesting and dreamlike, really doesn’t fit with the tone of the rest of the film. It was as if the film wanted to be a piece of European expressionism, much like Suspiria, but it only committed to doing so in the final 15 minutes. And the plot points such as Flora’s fear of leaving, or what really happened with her parents, or the explanation of why the house remained haunted are all left frustratingly unanswered.
Less Is More
To be fair however, The Turning boasts a few great strengths (three to be exact), that deserve recognition. Our three primary characters are brought to life in stellar performances by their respective actors. Mackenzie Davis is our fish out of water, and we the audience sympathize greatly with her, especially when she feels like she’s the only sane person there.
Considering her young age, Brooklynn Prince shows a great deal of range, particularly as she tows the line between upbeat/cheery and terrified/disturbed. And for fans of Stranger Things (as well It), you will never have such a strong urge to punch Finn Wolfhard in the face! It’s quite clear that his character is influenced by (and maybe even possessed by) the abusive, deceased Quint. But even with that said, he perfectly portrays a little twerp that is the epitome of stereotypically unpleasant teenagers.
Overall, The Turning gives us great performances by a strong, but small ensemble, and has great potential. But sadly that potential is wasted on a ending that attempts to be artistic, but fails to put in the foundation to properly pull it off. And for more reviews, rankings, and other fun horror content, follow Halloween Year-Round on Facebook and Twitter!