Starring: Deborah Kerr, Martin Stephens, Pamela Franklin
Director: Jack Clayton
Running Time: 99 mins
The Innocents is a British film about a governess who is hired to look after two children at a wealthy estate, but soon becomes disturbed as she grows to believe the house is haunted children are being possessed.
Undeniably creepy in atmosphere, The Innocents is an eye-catching watch throughout, with a fantastic lead performance from Deborah Kerr and equally impressive turns from the young Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin. However, it’s a film that fails to make its deeper psychological themes work, ending up as an engaging horror-thriller, but an underwhelming mind drama.
Let’s start on the bright side, because one of the great things about The Innocents is that it does so much more than your average haunted house movie. Though set in a big country estate, the threat that our lead faces isn’t an illusive, absent one, but rather in her face at every moment, and the true terror is deciphering whether or not that threat is real.
With young children as unnerving as Village Of The Damned, The Innocents is a film that plays well on the fear of the uncanny, with seemingly innocent young children just acting slightly abnormally, allowing a sense of doubt and fear to start festering in your mind.
Deborah Kerr is the key to making that work. The screenplay is lacking at times, but Kerr’s performance is a brilliant blend of confusion and increasing terror. Coupled with expert make-up and hair styling that really add to the effect, she’s mesmerising to watch throughout, and brings a palpable sense of trauma to the table.
The problem with the film, however, is that much of its fear factor feels too superficial. Creepy it undeniably is, and with good, eerie visuals, an unnerving score and those fantastic performances, there’s a lot to make you feel a little frightened on the surface, but there’s more to this story than that.
At its heart, this movie should be a powerful, mind-bending psychological drama that focuses on the descent into madness of a well-meaning governess as she desperately tries to reason with her fears of the young children she is looking after.
With little support from the maids and keepers of the house, the movie has the opportunity to take you into a terrifying spiral into insanity along with its terrifying horror thrills. However, that doesn’t come off particularly well, as the film prioritises its atmosphere and spends too little time on the inner turmoil of Kerr’s character that could have made this an exhilarating psychodrama.
Overall, The Innocents is certainly worth the watch for horror lovers and all those who fancy some chills. With a creepy atmosphere and fantastic performances, there’s some good surface-level scares here, but it’s a film that fails to take advantage of its real potential, missing the mark on what could have been an intoxicating and maddening psychological thriller. So, that’s why I’m giving it a 7.2.