How to know you are in a horror movie: a playboy uncle tasks you with being the governess to a pair of children in a gigantic mansion located in the countryside, far away from help or people of any kind. Plus the previous mistress died in mysterious circumstances, but hey that’s not important and the added bonus is you don’t know how she died. Good times. This is the basis for The Innocents, based on the Turning of the Screw, a movie that I’m not sure can be called a haunted house movie or a crazy people movie. The film nicely leaves the viewer to interpret that for themselves, and it results in an ending that is haunting although a tad unclear to me, which is also fine I guess.
Anchoring the entire film is Deborah Kerr, who plays Miss Giddens, the governess challenged with ruling over the children. Flora is the girl, Miles is the boy, and at first they seem to be charming and wonderful but naturally are hiding darker secrets lying beneath the surface. The black and white cinematography is utterly stunning, and this is due to Freddie Francis, who went on to direct many Hammer Studios and other horror movies and is talented in his own right. Certain scenes build up the tension and add to the uncertainty of Giddens’ state of mind, while also suggesting that perhaps the spirits of the dead have come back to attack the living.
One of the main things I love about this movie is how events spiral out of control, that by the last act the film has achieved a bizarre high level that not too many horror movies reach. Another nice touch is how many scenes are without music, that silence is used to maximum effect and makes the film even more creepy. The Innocents has an otherworldly feel, and it helps that the child actors are also fantastic-Miles is particularly freaky and reminds me of the child actor they had for The Omen. This is a film that has a very good chance of cracking my Top 50 Horror Films list.