The Turning Parent Guide
A disturbing scene of sexual violence makes this film feel much darker than the rest of its content would indicate.
Parent Movie Review
Kate (Mackenzie Davis) has been teaching school, but when an opportunity comes up to become a live-in tutor for a young girl, she packs up and moves to the remote manor in the Maine countryside. Flora (Brooklynn Prince), the young girl Kate is supposed to be teaching, has lost both of her parents, and her last nanny disappeared in the middle of the night. Determined not to abandon the girl, Kate sticks to her post even when Flora’s delinquent older brother, Miles (Finn Wolfhard) is expelled from his boarding school and comes under Kate’s care. But as more and more strange things happen around her, Kate begins to wonder if she shouldn’t move back to the city…
The Turning does a lot of things well. It’s sort of like a bingo card for horror movie clichés. Nightmarish wax figure of someone’s great grandma? Check. Rooms full of mannequins and dolls? Check. Strange unused basement area? Check. Unused wing of creepy old manor house? Check. These old standards are presented seriously, which helps. Movies that try to facetiously play from the old trope manual usually just end up feeling awkward and clumsy. But since The Turning buys into its old horror classics more than anyone in the audience, they somehow feel more authentic.
I have two big problems with the adaptation. The first is in the choice of setting: I cannot for the life of me figure out why you’d take Henry James’ 1890s English country house gothic horror novel and try to relocate it in Maine in the mid-1990s. Does director Floria Sigismondi really believe that nothing says Victorian terror like the Clinton administration and Kurt Cobain? What makes this even more exasperating is that they shot the movie in Ireland. Is there a point in hauling an American cast to Ireland so they can pretend to be in Maine to tell a story that took place in England? If any of this makes sense to you, you’re several steps ahead of me
The other problem is the ending, which doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. I don’t want to give anything away, but the resolution is remarkably unsatisfying, undoing the solid achievements of the film’s competent pacing and cinematography. The script, too, is pretty good (aside from the bizarre geographic relocation), until it falls apart in the final fifteen minutes. Talk about a fumble on the goal line.
The content is a little much for a PG-13 rating, although in a pleasant surprise, there is far less profanity than I would expect in a horror movie. The violence also seems milder – until you get to the scene of sexual violence. This makes the film feel much darker than the other categories would indicate. It isn’t a careless treatment of that subject, but that doesn’t make it any more pleasant to watch, and it doesn’t make this a teen-friendly horror flick.
For adult genre fans, The Turning could be a fun horror movie, especially if you’re willing to cut and run before the end. There’s a pretty clear point where you can choose to end the movie, and that’s where I’d get up and start making my way for the door. The big advantage of that, aside from not having to deal with the confusing ending, is that you don’t have to listen to every other person in the audience asking aloud: “What was that about?”Directed by Floria Sigismondi. Starring Mackenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard, and Brooklynn Prince. Running time: 94 minutes. Theatrical release January 24, 2020. Updated January 24, 2020
Watch the trailer for The Turning
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Turning rated PG-13? The Turning is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for terror, violence, disturbing images, brief strong language and some suggestive content.
Violence: A person dreams that their head is smashed into a wall. A crow is shown eating a live koi fish. An individual stomps on the injured fish to kill it. A person has their head smashed into a mannequin. An individual is shown being strangled to death. Someone is pushed over a railing to their death. A physical assault between two teenagers is briefly described.
Sexual Content: A woman is shown from the shoulders up in the bath. A teenager is shown harassing an older woman. A picture showing a woman’s posterior is briefly shown, along with another picture showing a woman sleeping in a nightdress, both of which are implied to be non-consensual. An individual is shown briefly in their underwear. A person is depicted in a manner that implies sexual assault.
Profanity: There are two scatological terms, one extreme profanity, and a few terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: There is a line of dialogue implying that an adult took a young teenager out drinking. An empty flask is shown in connection with a character reputed to be a dangerous alcoholic.
Page last updated January 24, 2020
The Turning Parents' Guide
Why do you think Kate stays at her job? Would you stay in a situation that seemed so dangerous?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
You’d think that Henry James’ original novel, The Turn of the Screw, would be a recommendation but the prose is so florid and convoluted that I’m not going to recommend it unless you already have a fondness for Victorian literature.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a short story, published six years before The Turn of the Screw, which focuses more on the mental illness aspect of gothic horror.
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If you want a more accurate adaptation of Henry James’ dark novel, try the 1999 TV movie The Turn of the Screw starring Jodhi May and Colin Firth.
A more recent gothic horror story is Nicole Kidman’s turn as a terrified mother in The Others. Her children, who suffer from severe photosensitivity, provide an excellent excuse to keep Kidman wandering around in the dark.
Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame stars as a determined lawyer in The Woman in Black, who enters an excessively haunted manor in a small village to retrieve some legal documents.
On the less terrifying end of the gothic spectrum is The Little Stranger, which stars Domnhall Gleeson as an unsettled doctor and his obsession with the Warwickshire manor home he grew up near.