‘The Turning’ leads to an unsatisfying end

Caught somewhere between a paranormal horror movie and a psychological thriller, ​”The Turning”​ weaves itself into a story packed with so many intricacies that it barely coasts to the finish.

A roller coaster without any peaks or valleys would be an apt description of a movie that is brimming with potential for an energizing thrill ride, yet never quite follows through as promised. Kate Mandell (Mackenzie Davis, The Mirror and Terminator: Dark Fate) is an eager school teacher turned private tutor tasked with looking after a sweet, yet fearful girl named Flora Fairchild (Brooklynn Prince, The Florida Project) at her deceased parent’s estate. 

It doesn’t take long before she goes from being a private tutor to fighting for her life and her sanity as the ghastly remnants of the prior inhabitants of the manor begin to terrorize her.

While exploring the expository act of the movie, you quickly discover the emphasis the director Floria Sigismondi (well known for directing music videos for artists such as Muse, Katy Perry and Justin Timberlake) puts on vibrant colors and interesting camera angles. 

While keeping the cuts short and perspectives ever-changing, you find yourself astounded at the beauty of the manor and different shots they use to portray the setting. The use of this interesting directorial perspective, coupled with a great score by Nathan Barr (who did the soundtracks for Hostel and The Last Exorcism), leads you to actually find yourself becoming tantalized by what’s to come.

 As we’re introduced to the gardener and caretaker of the family, Mrs. Grose (Barbara Marten, Casualty) who is a very old-fashioned, no nonsense type of woman (the first of many horror movie cliches) — we begin to understand more about the type of people who live here. 

As Kate, being the ever-eager protagonist, begins to explore relationships with the family, we’re introduced to Flora and Miles Fairchild (Finn Wolfhard, Stranger Things, It(2017)). The relationship between Kate, Flora and Miles act as the foundation for the plot and is surprisingly well-written. Despite adhering to many recycled adages of horror movie character dynamics (one of them is frightened and clueless, another is innocent and well-intentioned, while the last is jaded and cynical.)

Things begin in a whimsical and playful manner. The movie transitions from exposition to heavy foreshadowing and eventually into the heat of the struggle between the protagonists and the ghastly spectres.

While setting a decent tone for something that carries more depth than just having ghosts in the house, the movie doesn’t do much to scare you aside from jump scares, which isn’t so much fear as it is surprise. 

The cello-heavy scores do wonders to create the suspense that gets quickly broken by a sudden movement or unexpected apparition. At this point, however, you begin to realize that the plot they spent so much time building is going to devolve into something that prioritizes cheap scares over true goosebumps on the skin, gripping the arm rest, having to sleep with the light on, fear.

While strong performances from Finn Wolfhard and Mackenzie Davis allot the film more merit than it deserves at times, in the end, the film feels like it set you up with a higher expectation than what was delivered. 

While it’s better to err on the side of caution, in this case, they stuck so close to what was safe, that it felt like a great premise unexplored and a movie that will probably go unremembered.