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The Innocents

Year: 1961
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Jack Clayton
Writer: William Archibald/Henry James
Cast: Deborah Kerr

I saw this film on the recommendation of the film press as a whole, which always seemed to rate it very highly. It was an unusual and brave premise for a film, particularly for the time. The costumes, acting and dialogue will remind you of Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca – all very swoony like something out of a romance novel, but the quality of the story and the execution of the idea lets you look past all that.

I won't spoil the surprise, but at its heart it poses the question of whether children be as evil as adults. It answers the question with what turns into a fairly classic ghost story with sequences that range from outright scary (like the woman in the middle of the lake) to surreal.

When a young woman takes a job as a governess to two all-but-ignored children in a large country manor, the kids and the kindly maid take to her straight away, but Miss Giddens (Kerr) starts to suspect strange things are going on. The brother and sister are precocious but loving, but what starts as the odd late-night disturbance becomes a terrifying descent into what feels like madness for the formerly reserved young woman.

Back then they couldn't rest on lazy tropes like the gore and jump-scares we see so much of today. Like Carnival of Souls, it has to rely on slow-burn suspense and the occasional image that will make you glance nervously over your shoulder. Effective and creepy despite the filmmaking style trappings of the era.

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