The Innocents is a spine tingling tale of suspense from filmmaker Eskil Vogt. The film, which shares no relation to the 1961 classic of the same name, uses the presumed innocence of children to craft a uniquely unsettling experience. Unsettling is the key word, and it’s a feeling that consumed me throughout the entirety of my viewing.
When a family moves to a new apartment complex, their young daughter Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum), starts making new friends. Among those new friends is Ben (Sam Ashraf). Ben is a normal enough kid. He enjoys playing outside and exploring the dense woods that border the nearby playground. But after Ben shares his unusual talents with Ida, things begin to take a turn towards violence. Ben has telekinesis. He can move things with his mind. It’s small things at first. A rock. A leaf. But with continued practice, his skills grow stronger. And he’s not the only kid with this unexplainable ability.
Taking something that isn’t intended to be scary and using it as a vessel for terror is a common tactic in horror. Clowns are a prime example. So are children. Over the years horror hounds have seen their fair share of children that send a chill down their spine. Damien from The Omen. Esther from Orphan. And perhaps the most iconic of all, Rhoda from The Bad Seed. The Innocents takes that tried and true angle and elevates it to new heights. These aren’t just “evil kids.” They’re children who are navigating the normal, everyday hurtles of adolescence. They’re children who are gifted with abilities beyond their understanding at a time when they lack impulse control; they lack the emotional maturity to control themselves.
Vogt crafts tension masterfully and beautifully. It’s a slow and methodical build up that doesn’t overly rely on cheap thrills or gratuitous gore. In fact, it’s not a particularly gory film at all. At least, not as far as horror or suspense films go. However, one gruesome moment stands out as being particularly difficult to watch. And fair warning to animal lovers, you may want to shield your eyes and plug your ears for it. My wife (who probably loves cats more than she loves me) was unable to sit through this part of the film.
The Innocents is a masterclass in suspenseful storytelling. From its opening moments it sets the tone. This is a story about pushing boundaries. About finding those boundaries and facing the consequences of pushing them too far. It’s the type of movie that sticks with you. In all likelihood I’ll never watch it again. Not because I didn’t enjoy it. I enjoyed it quite a bit. But because it’s the type of film that leaves a lasting impact and whose touch will be felt for a very long time. And that is an incredible accomplishment. 9/10