A young governess for two children becomes convinced that the house and grounds are haunted.A young governess for two children becomes convinced that the house and grounds are haunted.A young governess for two children becomes convinced that the house and grounds are haunted.
Genuine creepiness in glorious black & white
What makes a good chiller? Gore, special effects? No, as director Jack Clayton proves here, it's atmosphere, combined with the sounds of horror, that makes the difference. Granted, I've seen just about every Elm Street and Friday the 13th instalment, but "The Innocents" proves that what you don't see can scare you the most. Deborah Kerr is in fine form as an English governess who is sent to a remote mansion in the country to look after two young orphans. Their "uncle" in London doesn't have time for them. Kerr slowly begins to realize there's something not quite right with the young boy and girl. Their thoughts and actions are not consistent with the behavior of pre-teens. There's a dark secret, and Kerr sets out to discover it. We do see the ghosts, but it's when Kerr searches the house for the sources of strange noises and voices that we really feel a chill. "The Innocents" also makes great use of its black and white photography. I can't imagine it working as well in color (are you listening, Gus Van Sant?). Shadows just seem creepier in black and white. The children are well played by Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin. Franklin was 11 when she made this film, and as an adult she would go on to star in another excellent haunted house movie, "The Legend of Hell House." It's a shame that Hollywood has stopped making movies like "The Innocents." Perhaps audiences used to Halloween-style slashers, "Scream" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer" would be demanding blood and guts. Yes, "Scream" was, pardon the pun, a cut above. It raised the slumping horror bar to new heights, and then "I Know..." ran under that bar, but that's another story. If you want genuine chills rather than cheap thrills, you can't do much better than "The Innocents."
- Dec 12, 1998
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