Thoughts on “The Turning”

I’m going to spoil this movie big time right from the beginning, because the biggest problem with the movie is both the ending and how they could have even thought that such an ending might work.

In watching this, I watched both the ending and then, puzzled, went to watch the alternate ending including with the movie.  In watching these things, I never do that.  And the problem is that the two endings are so far apart that it’s difficult to see how the movie could play them both off properly.  The released ending has it that the main character is insane and is hallucinating all of the events in the movie.  The alternate ending has her and the children facing off against the presumably ghostly handyman and leaves us with at least the impression that they are not going to survive the final onslaught.  Now, obviously, these are pretty different endings, and the big risk here is that in order to make both endings seem like something that would have followed from the movie itself they’d need to make a lot of things pretty vague and ambiguous, which would make for a movie where we are more confused than scared (and everyone knows how much I criticize horror movies that confuse the audience).  But if it was carefully done, it could have worked, although again it would be difficult to pull off.

This movie does not manage to pull it off.

The movie opens with a scene of what we presume is the nanny trying to flee the house who is killed.  Soon after, we pick up with the new nanny arriving to take her place.  Spooky things happen — including things moving around and a creepy sewing room with a creepy mannequin or statue that seems to look at her when she’s in the room — and the boy — the two children are a boy and a girl, with the boy been teenaged and the girl being younger — adds weird and seems to have a crush on her that he sometimes tries to develop.  We also find out that her mother is in an insane asylum and that’s one of the reasons she needs money, I think.  The little girl has a morbid fear of leaving the house that is never really resolved, but leads to some odd cases.  The boy shifts from being nice to being a jerk and back again, expresses sympathy for the now dead handyman that most other people think was a jerk (and probably killed the previous nanny), and seems at times to be adopting the handyman’s personality.  This then builds until we get to one of the two endings.

The problem is that given the initial scene of a different nanny being killed that absolutely could not be a flashback, it all being inside her head makes little sense.  She didn’t know about the previous nanny then and if she had she’d have been much more concerned about all of this than she was.  So the inclusion of that scene only makes the ending they went with seem nonsensical.  While there is an interesting implication that perhaps the mother in the insane asylum was really the protagonist and not her mother, that’s not played with or developed enough to really work and make up for the clash with the beginning of the movie.  Also, it all being inside her insane mind makes all of the points about the handyman and all of the scenes where the boy seems to be talking to him and acting like him utterly irrelevant.  While the alternate ending is a bit of a Downer Ending, it’s also far more consistent with the movie as a whole.  I suspect they thought the “it’s all in her head” ending clever, but in order to pull off clever endings the movie needs to establish the meat of it so that it can really turn out to be clever at the end, instead of inconsistent.

And unfortunately the rest of the movie isn’t all that great either.  The scares are pretty prosaic, and outside of that most of the movie involves dealing with the children, who are annoying most of the time.  The little girl has moments of cuteness, but also moments of being annoying.  The boy is, of course, annoying by intent in order to build up the creepiness and threat.  So we spend most of the time watching annoying people do annoying things.  If this built to a proper ending this could work, and I will commend the movie for giving the boy a bit of a split personality which can generate some sympathy and work to make the possession/corruption angle work, but then the ending tosses it all away which leaves that as meaning absolutely nothing.

I can’t imagine watching this one again.  I don’t really care for any of the characters and any plot or character points that I did care about are tossed by the ending.  This one is going into my box of movies to maybe sell.

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