…What the hell did I just watch?! No seriously, what just happened? As the credits began to roll during the first public screening of “The Turning” in Toronto on Thursday night, I listened to a nearly-packed theatre yell things like “I want my money back” and audibly laughing at what we had all just watched on the big screen. I’m still trying to figure it out myself, to be honest, and while I have a few theories, perhaps this movie’s n0n-ending is the ending? I’m unsure and it’s so frustrating because I was absolutely rooting for this film! 

Being a huge horror fan, I decided I would review as many horror movies as possible in 2020. After all, the 2010s brought us some heavy hitters of the genre: “The Conjuring Universe” exploded onto the horror scene spawning sequels and spinoffs like “Annabelle” and “The Nun,” Blumhouse Productions has been connected to nearly every horror movie out there these days, Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and “US” has redefined the horror genre altogether and a legitimate resurgence of the “Halloween” franchise starring the Scream Queen herself, Jamie Lee Curtis, really has horror fans feeling like the genre is bigger and better than ever! Myself included!

Or so I thought. After “The Grudge” starring John Cho nearly put me to sleep and “Underwater” starring Kristen Stewart relied heavily on nostalgia and design elements over plotlines, I had what I believe to be understandable reservations about “The Turning.” By looks of the trailer, it’s fate was going to lie with all the other January horror releases: ready and practically willing to nose-dive into the bottom half of the top ten at the weekly box office. The trailer did have a creepy enough appeal, and while the film’s premise seems to have an unexplored quality to it, I couldn’t help but see through this entire movie’s trickery. Parts of the trailer didn’t even make it into the final cut! 

Based on the novella “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James, “The Turning” live-action adaptation is directed by Italian/Canadian native and OCAD (Ontario College of Art & Design in Toronto) graduate, Floria Sigismondi, who’s known for directing avant-guard and straight-up spooky music videos like Marilyn Manson’s “Beautiful People,” Christina Aguiler’s “Fighter” and Incubus’ “Megalomaniac.” This is her horror movie debut, and I wish I could say it knocked my socks off like the majority of her other work does, but “The Turning” absolutely falls short in nearly every area that matters when it comes to horror. One thing Sigismondi unsurprisingly aces, however, is the cinematography! The visuals in “The Turning” are hauntingly beautiful, and if you can manage to ignore some of the ridiculous and downright confusing aspects of the film’s storyline, it’s very pretty to look at! I’m not sure that’s worth the price of an admission ticket these days, though.

“The Turning” has a small cast of characters played by some promising talents but none of their efforts make up for the lack of storyline. Actress Mackenzie Davis, who plays Kate, is dishevelled in her role and absolutely nothing she does is believable in a real-life scenario. Who willingly goes back to a haunted house? Twice! Apparently, live-in nannies loyal to death because they would rather die than break a promise. Choices, Kate. Choices!

The two orphaned children in the film – Flora, a young girl played by Brooklynn Prince, and Miles, a teenage boy played by Finn Wolfhard of “Stranger Things” – indefinitely steal the show and I’ll go on record to say that Brooklynn Prince as Flora is the standout of this film. She’s an adorable ball of energy and just as creepy as she is cute, and she has the most memorable lines of the film: “Like I’d tell,” she says after Kate asks her what happened to the children’s last nanny, echoing the late Brittany Murphy’s “I’ll never tell” quote from “Don’t Say A Word.” One of many 90s influences, as the film takes place in the 90s just after Kurt Cobain of Nirvana’s suicide, which has nothing to do with the film but is prominently mentioned more than once…

Kate also rocks the same iconic hairstyle as Drew Barrymore did in the opening of “Scream” (with the chunky 90s cordless phone to match) and there are more than a few parallels to the 90s horror/thriller starring Michelle Pfieffer, “What Lies Beneath.” Other odes include “The Shining,” which is a 70s film, but the likenesses to the labyrinth at the Overlook Hotel are too similar to be a coincidence. Overall, there are way too many plotholes and eye-roll moments for this movie to turn into anything other than a waste of time.

“Watch the children with care!”

2 Popcorn Kernels / 5




About the Author

Joey Viola is the Co-Founder of MoJo Toronto and an LGBTQ community leader who utilizes his passion and flair for the art of writing by bringing a fresh perspective in reviewing entertainment and advocating for equality, tolerance, and social/political justice.