February 21, 2020

‘The Turning’ Review: Jumbled and nonsensical

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers.

Lately, it seems that every horror movie released is a bust, and The Turning is no exception. 

When I found out that Finn Wolfhard was going to be starring in another horror film, I was ecstatic. Following his unforgettable performance in It and Stranger Things, seeing Wolfhard in action again I had high hopes for The Turning. I was ready for a movie about demented children, an old and creepy estate, and maybe even a little bit of ghostly action.

The trailer, which I had seen a few times before, looked aesthetically pleasing with its cool grey tones and mid-century atmosphere (though it was set in the mid-1990s). It portrayed the children, Miles (Finn Wolfhard) and Flora (Brooklynn Prince) in an evil light, though upon seeing the movie, that wasn’t necessarily the case. 

Credit: Universal PIctures, Dreamworks Pictures

Flora was never anything less than a sweet little girl. She played with dolls, adored her older brother Miles, and bonded heavily with her new live-in tutor, Kate (Mackenzie Davis). At one point, Kate is having a moment of terror in her room, and Flora comes in, providing comfort and staying with her overnight. 

Miles, on the other hand, had some more hostile vibes that were true to the trailer. He was consistently creepy and harsh, bringing forth the unsettling aspect.

Aside from the general aesthetics, the movie was disappointing. To put it simply, it didn’t make sense. 

While on the grounds, Kate slowly becomes spooked.

On her first night in the house, she hears sounds coming from another part of the house. As the film goes on, she starts seeing figures in the mirrors, feeling hands crawling across her body, and hearing more unsettling sounds. 

All of this is to be expected in a horror movie set in an old house; however, The Turning spins it a bit differently. 

Rather than seeing ghosts of the distant past, like the family’s ancestors, Kate is catching glimpses of the old tutor, Miss Jessell, and an unruly man who worked in the house and was  a bad influence on Miles (according to Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper) named Quint, both of whom are deceased. 

Credit: Universal Pictures

The movie jumped between Miles being violent, Flora and Kate being low-key wholesome, and Kate being scared of things that may or may not actually be there and slowly deteriorating mentally. 

While watching, I kept thinking up theories in my head to somehow make sense of what I was watching because there was no apparent primary storyline.

The most obvious, to me, was that Quint’s ghost was possessing Miles and making him do terrible things. That would explain Miles being expelled from his boarding school for beating up another student, his rage toward Kate, and his general bad attitude. 

I also thought that Flora was dead the whole time, which is why she would never leave the property. At the beginning of the movie, Mrs. Grose tells Kate that Flora doesn’t leave, presumably because she watched her parents die right outside of the gate. 

But the real part here that didn’t make sense was the ending. 

At the end of the film, Kate gathers Flora and a somehow compliant Miles and rushes them off of the property and through the gate, presumably toward a happy ending. 

Then it cuts back to earlier that day, where Kate receives paintings from her mentally ill mother. 

After that, she begins frantically interrogating the children about if they saw Quint in the mirror. Then it ends (and no, there is no post-credits scene).

This made me think that Kate, like her mother, is mentally ill, and she was imagining all of the apparitions, sounds, and feelings. 

Upon further research—primarily from an article from Refinery29— I learned that I may not be wrong, but that there are multiple theories stemming from what critics thought about the novella the movie was based on, The Turn of the Screw

One of those theories is that Kate’s mother’s mental illness is genetic, and she imagined most of what happened to her (which is my thought as to what happened). 

Another theory is the opposite of that: Kate’s mom’s drawings are reflective of some supernatural ability to predict the future, or possibly able to see things that most people can’t.

Regardless of what the true ending is, The Turning just wasn’t it for me. 

Aside from the general aesthetics and Wolfhard and Prince’s performances, I was underwhelmed by the horror aspects and thoroughly disappointed by the ending. 

I’m not asking for a complete resolution (who doesn’t love a good cliffhanger?), and I understand that, in many circumstances, unreliable narrators make for great storytelling, but in this case, the last 15 minutes of the film ruined the entire experience. 

  • Sydney is the managing editor at the Chimes and a senior professional writing and journalism major at Capital University pursuing a career arts and entertainment writing. Some of her favorite things are cold brew, books about dragons, horror films, and her cat, Sterling.

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