The Reel Review
When a young woman looking after two children at a sprawling estate disappears, a replacement (Mackenzie Davis) is hired to take over. Shortly after her arrival, she starts seeing ghosts in this 1994-era take on Henry James’ 1898 novella “The Turn of the Screw.”
First, the pros: The Turning features an excellent cast led by Davis (Terminator: Dark Fate, Tully), with Finn Wolfrock (Stranger Things, It, It: Chapter Two), Brooklynn Prince (The Florida Project) and Barbara Marten (The Mill, Casualty). It also has a spine-tingling score, a wonderfully creepy setting and some chilling, what-was-that-I-just-saw-in-the-mirror moments. Plus, it is refreshing unpredictable, compared to its decent but unsurprising trailer.
But then there are the cons, and wow, there are some doozies. Despite the aforementioned creepy setting, The Turning just isn’t that scary, with a muddled story more focused on looks (dusty mirrors, mannequins and doll parts) than substance, as it tries so hard to blur reality and fantasy that it becomes confusing to viewers. Then there is a baffling, jarringly abrupt ending from director Floria Sigismondi (The Runaways) that, while admirably true to the intent of the original novella, is done in such a way that it leaves viewers initially feeling completely shortchanged (horror fans ESPECIALLY hate this). Although most will like this moody film a bit more after a day or two to dwell on it, horror shouldn’t be this dull or require this much work.
• Joely Richardson is the fourth member of her family to appear in an adaptation of the 1898 Henry James novella “The Turn of the Screw.” Her grandfather Michael Redgrave was in 1961’s The Innocents, her aunt Lynn Redgrave played the governess in 1974’s The Turn of the Screw, with her uncle Corin Redgrave in the similarly titled 2009 film.
• Another adaptation of The Turn of the Screw, The Haunting of Bly Manor, the second season of Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House anthology, will be released later in 2020 on Netflix.
• The Turning was filmed at Kilruddery Estate in Ireland.