What’s in an ending? Spoiler alert, it’s pretty hard to talk about The Turning without talking about THAT ending, arguably one of the worst on record. Remember the fictional compositions that you’d create as a child, ending ‘but it was all a dream?’ That’s the kind of ending we get here, an ambiguous double-switch in which neither option is satisfying. Yes, there’s ambiguity in the source material, Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, but that ambiguity offers a choice of options; in this instance, we’re left without a clue what we’ve been watching.
Mackenzie Davis plays Kate, an inexperienced nanny who goes to a remote country pile to look after two kids, Miles (Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard) and Flora (Brooklyn Prince). A passive-aggressive caretaker Mrs Grouse (Barbara Martell) keeps Kate on her toes, and reports about the deaths of the kid’s parents are garbled, as is the vanishing of the previous nanny. Is Kate losing her mind, or are the kids possessed by demonic forces?
Ninety minutes later, no real light is shed on the subject. The Turning is a handsome production, shot in Ireland, and the film’s general appearance isn’t bad. We’ve been over this kind of course with The Boy, which wasn’t exactly a masterpiece but made a heap of cash, so why was The Turning such a notable dud? Something seems to have gone wrong in post; there’s an actor listed in the credits as Quint, the cruel riding instructor who the James story pivots on, but he’s got less than 10 seconds screen time, his face seems to be pixelated out and he’s got no dialogue; it’s hard to project anything when the entire part appears to be on the cutting room floor. With no villain, ghost or monster, we’re left with the same vacant projection as the characters; what is going on here?
With no clues as to when this story is taking place, plus an irrelevant grungy soundtrack, The Turning is something of a catastrophe for director Floria Sigismondi, an incident-free riff on James that never summons up blood, anxiety or scares. This film was released to howls from critics and audiences, and for once, they’re absolutely right; any curiosity that might be in play about the source material grinds to a halt in this misguided, hopelessly ill-conceived thud and blunder, complete with an ending that would send you straight to the cinema-manager to get your money back…