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The 2010s saw a renaissance for the horror movie genre with several innovative pictures achieving major success and remixes of old favorites coming back around for one more scare. With that being said, whatever horror movie came out at the top of 2020 had some massive shoes to fill. January horror flicks never seem to have the best reputation, but with an experienced hand at work and a skilled cast, Floria Sigismondi’s “The Turning,” based on Henry James’ 1983 novel “The Turn of the Screw,” appeared to be a January movie worth seeing.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. Set in the 1990s shortly after the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, “The Turning” follows Kate Mandell (Mackenzie Davis) as she begins a new assignment as a governess for seven-year-old Flora Fairchild (Brooklynn Prince) and her teenage brother Miles (Finn Wolfhard) after the disappearance of their live-in tutor, Miss Jessel. Sigismondi’s directing credits are a bit distinct as the Italian-Canadian director is responsible for the vision of many award-winning music videos from the likes of David Bowie, Sheryl Crow and Justin Timberlake as well as several episodes of the hit Amazon series “The Handmaid’s Tale.” While Sigismondi’s eye for cinematography shines in “The Turning,” her story-telling is a bit frantic. 

From the beginning, many key details that could support the storyline are missing. For example, the death of the children’s parents is alluded to several times in the film as well as in trailers, but not much is known about how they died or their relationship with Flora and Miles. The lack of these important details makes the film sort of hard to follow and can confuse viewers. However, unlike many modern horror films, “The Turning” contains very few true jump scares which I found very refreshing. It is a movie that relies specifically on the psychological elements to drive the fear factor of the story. While many movies do a good job of this, “The Turning” often tries too hard to use abstract elements to lead its story.

Moreover, several unrelated subplots pop up throughout the film and further confuse the audience and only seem to be present to extend the film’s runtime. “The Turning” appears to follow key facets of modern-day horror such as a movie’s ability to leave the purpose of its ending and overall theme up to the audience; 2010s films such as Jordan Peele’s “Us” and Ari Aster’s “Hereditary” achieved this difficult feat. However, instead of giving the audience enough pieces to put together the puzzle of “The Turning” on its own, this film fails to provide enough significant details to be able to comprehend its conclusion.

While the performances of its cast are phenomenal, “The Turning” is an attempt to mimic the innovative scare tactics that make great modern horror films. From lack of details to trying too hard to be a “smart” movie, it leaves audiences confused by unimportant subplots and empty holes of plot development. In the scheme of things, “The Turning” is forgettable and fails to push the genre forward.


Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Watch the film’s trailer at:



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