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The Turning Movie Review - Creepy but Unsatisfying

Finn Wolfhard is great in a spooky but vague thriller.

Reviewed by on Jan 24, 2020
Rating: 3 Star Rating

Kidzworld saw The Turning, an update of the classic “Turn of the Screw” ghost story. A few good scares and nice performances (Finn Wolfhard) don’t make up for an unsatisfying, vague outcome. Read our movie review!

In The Turning, at a huge, spooky estate in rural Maine, new live-in tutor Kate (Mackenzie Davis) has been hired to teach and care for young Flora (Brooklyn Prince) made an orphan after her parents are killed in a car crash.

Is young Flora unbalanced or being haunted?Is young Flora unbalanced or being haunted?Courtesy of Universal Pictures

When teen bro Miles (Finn Wolfhard) returns after a boarding school incident, things get complicated. What actually happened to the kids’ last nanny and why are these two kids so…well, weird?  The film is an update (to 1994) of Henry James 1898 spooky novella “The Turn of the Screw”.

The Turning Movie Trailer



New Nanny

Pretty, young Seattle resident Kate (Mackenzie Davis) is hired as a live-in tutor/caregiver for young Flora after her parents were killed in a car wreck. Her roomie Rose (Kim Adis) thinks it’s a bad idea. When Kate gets to the isolated mansion, she is greeted by the surly housekeeper Mrs. Grose (Barbara Marten) who tells her that the “children” are special, well-raised thoroughbreds. Children? Who else is involved?

There is something weird about the housekeeperThere is something weird about the housekeeperCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Miles Comes Home

Sullen, moody and violent teen Miles comes home. He’s Flora’s 15-year-old brother and he’s been expelled from boarding school for attacking another student. Miles’ mentor and role model seems to be groundskeeper and riding instructor Quint (Niall Greig Fulton) who actually died but his spirit apparently still haunts the mansion. Miles is into playing loud grunge music and irritating Kate with it. He’s willful and disrespectful but still has a certain weird charm.

Miles returns from boarding schoolMiles returns from boarding schoolCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Creepy Pranks

Disturbed Flora and Miles evidently get their kicks pranking poor Kate when they pull things like placing a doll floating in a pool to make her think Flora has drowned. Is it their hushed voices keeping her awake at night or….something else? Miles is creepy as he watches Kate sleep and even kisses her on the cheek.

Is Miles pranking scared Kate?Is Miles pranking scared Kate?Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Kate sees the ghost-like image of a screaming woman in the window and we see a mannequin turning its head. A sewing machine turns on by itself. Kate starts to believe that the place is haunted by the ghosts of the former nanny Miss Jessel (Denna Thomsen) and evil Peter Quint who were a couple before their deaths…or abrupt departures.

Is Kate talking to a ghost or....?Is Kate talking to a ghost or....?Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Hide and Seek

After Kate and Miles chase each other on horses through a maze, the kids want to play hide-and-seek, using flashlights through a creepy, forbidden, closed section of the house that produces a lot of quick scares. There is a monster-like hand with long nails running itself through Flora’s hair and semi-mauling Kate. By this time the tutor/nanny is really losing her mind. She sees her mother (Joely Richardson) who is actually in a nut house. Is all of this real or are the ghosts, etc. just in poor Kate’s imagination? A jarring and bizarre ending won’t really answer all your questions.

Kate finds Ms. Jessel's notesKate finds Ms. Jessel's notesCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Wrapping Up

The Turning contains some scary moments and presents some really cool-looking, atmospheric images but there isn’t much building tension either emotionally for the characters or plot-wise. The film is mostly a series of jump scares and you see a lot of them coming. Also, how stupid is it to play hide-and-seek in a dark, forbidden part of a spooky house when you are already afraid of weird, ghostly happenings?

Siblings Miles and Flora (Finn and Brooklyn on set)Siblings Miles and Flora (Finn and Brooklyn on set)

The movie is supposed to take place in the 1990’s so there are hints of grunge rock that work for the time but why the ‘90’s? 

Miles plays loud music to annoy KateMiles plays loud music to annoy KateCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Finn Wolfhard from “Stranger Things” and the It films, is creepy and disturbing as Miles but also plays the teen’s vulnerability well. Is his behavior just the usual teen boy in transition stuff or something far more calculated and sick? Young Brooklyn Prince succeeds in playing the intelligent, crafty and sickly sweet young Flora.

Creepy fingers caress FloraCreepy fingers caress FloraCourtesy of Universal Pictures

I don’t personally like films that have unclear, unfinished or disconnected, really abrupt endings but the classic novella upon which the movie is based also posed the question “Is the nanny going crazy and are all the scary threats just in her heard or real?”  The movie’s ending scenes seem disconnected to the rest of the story to say the least but you might be okay with that. I was just frustrated. Despite some cool performances and spooky, atmospheric cinematography and set design, we can only award a weak 3 stars.

The Turning Movie Rating: 3

The Turning Movie PosterCourtesy of Universal Pictures

See The Turning in theaters now.

What Do You Think?

Are you into spooky thriller ghost stories with strange endings? Are you a big Finn Wolfhard fan?  If you saw creepy things in an old mansion would you believe them or think you were just losing your mind? Talk up all things spooky with a comment!

By: Lynn Barker