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The Innocents

The Innocents (Jack Clayton, 1961)

I've discussed this film many places around the site, including its own thread twice, so maybe this is overkill to mention it again, but I just watched it with someone who has never seen it, so I'll try to post something new and thoughtful, if I can. The bottom line for me is that this is the creepiest, scariest, most-unsettling horror film I've ever seen. The Innocents is so frightening because it's open to so many interpretations, and no matter which way you interpret it, it's just as disturbing as possible. It's based on Henry James' The Turn of the Screw which tells the story of a new governess, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), and her effect on two angelic children who seem to be far more mature than their ages would allow. The boy Miles (Martin Stephens) is sent home from school for being "an injury" to the other boys, and the girl Flora (Pamela Franklin) seems to realize that Miles is coming home before anyone else does. This is only the beginning of many incidents which seem to possibly have more than one explanation, and as the film progresses, it becomes more-difficult to decide what the truth of the situation is.

The photography is spectacular and the sound design awesomely conveys what could either be Miss Giddens' deepening madness or a presence of unspeakable evil which threatens to possess and corrupt the children in the form of two dead servants who formally helped to raise the children while freely carrying on an open S&M sexual relationship in front of them. Since the film was made in 1961, you have to pay attention to pick up all the plot nuances and possibilities, but all you have to have are eyes and ears to be transfixed and lost in another world of a large house full of rooms of whispers and scary "games" of hide-and-seek. Make sure you watch this one after it gets dark.