Steven Spielberg’s New Film, ‘The Turning,’ Is a Modern Retelling of This 19th-Century Classic Horror Story

Everyone knows the summer months and holiday season are typically when studios release their biggest blockbusters. Likewise, January tends to be when Hollywood unleashes the movies it has the least amount of confidence in. From half-baked dramas to cheap, derivative thrillers, this is far from prime time for moviegoers.

Horror movies, in particular, are frequently released early in the year. After all, the genre carries a loyal, built-in audience and less demanding budgetary needs. So horror is an easy option for studios looking to fill up calendar space or shed some dead weight. Then again, most January horror films don’t have the pedigree of The Turning, a film with a surprising origin story.

Mackenzie Davis at the Japanese premiere of 'Terminator: Dark Fate'
Mackenzie Davis at the Japanese premiere of ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ | Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images

‘The Turning’ comes from executive producer Steven Spielberg

Some moviegoers may write The Turning off as just another horror film. But the movie actually has a lot of talent involved. First of all, Steven Spielberg serves as an executive producer. The Oscar-winning filmmaker has produced a ton of classic films over the years but has rarely dipped into straight-up horror. Notably, he did produce and write 1982’s Poltergeist.

The Turning — directed by Floria Sigismondi — follows a nanny (MacKenzie Davis) entrusted to care for two orphans (Brooklyn Prince and Finn Wolfhard) at a mysterious house. Naturally, she discovers neither the kids nor their home is what it seems.

Davis has delivered a string of solid performances in films such as Blade Runner 2049, Tully, and Terminator: Dark Fate. Meanwhile, Wolfhard brings the horror-friendly audience of Stranger Things to the film. Prince, for her part, has only a few credits to her name, including a breakout lead performance in Oscar-nominated drama The Florida Project.

The movie is a surprising adaptation of a story by author Henry James

But The Turning has more than just its talented gift and the guiding hand of one of the greatest living filmmakers on its side. The film is also based on a famous literary work, one many moviegoers may be familiar with. Sigismondi’s film is actually a modern update of Henry James’ 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw.

Classified as Gothic fiction, James’ work was originally printed in serial format over the course of a few months. The Turning keeps the basic premise intact, albeit with a modern-day setting. This change likely intends to bring a fresh perspective to the timeless ghost story. After all, The Turn of the Screw has been adapted for the screen several times over the years.

In fact, the story is about to receive yet another adaptation. The Turn of the Screw will serve as the basis for season 2 of Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House, which will be titled The Haunting of Bly Manor. However, the show isn’t strictly retelling James’ story but rather using it as a springboard to frame the entire season-long arc.

2020 could prove to be an excellent year for horror fans

The Turning might be one of the first horror movies of 2020. But it is far from the last. In fact, the year provides ample opportunity for horror aficionados to jump out of their skin. The first half of 2020 brings a horrific twist on classic TV series Fantasy Island, Leigh Whannell’s updated version of The Invisible Man, and A Quiet Place Part II.

Then, of course, several long-running horror franchises are back with new installments. These include new entries in the Saw, Candyman, Purge, Conjuring, and Halloween series. Don’t forget promising new releases like Gretel & Hansel, Antlers, and Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho.

The jury’s still out on whether The Turning will live up to its source material. But one thing is for sure: the movies have a lot more scares in store for audiences where The Turning came from.