Tuesday, May 27, 2014

'The Innocents' - Blind Spot

'The Innocents' is the fifth film in the Blind Spot Series with TheMatinee.Ca. You can see my blind spot list in the lower right hand side bar. Blind spots are films that I've never seen before. Reviews are posted on the last Tuesday of the month. Previous blind spots include: 'Quest for Fire,' 'Attack of the 50-Foot Woman,' 'THX-1138,' and 'Fahrenheit 451.'

Directed by JACK CLAYTON
Starring DEBORAH KERR, PETER WYNGARDE, and MEG JENKINS
Written by TRUMAN CAPOTE and WILLIAM ARCHIBALD
Based on the novel by HENRY JAMES

'The Innocents' has all of the makings of a good old fashioned horror movie--it's set in an old English countryside manor during the mid-1800s, it has a moor, creepy children, and a jittery governess to boot. The film begins when a wealthy bachelor (known only as the Uncle) interviews the naive Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) for a governess position for his wards (Flora and Miles). Miss Giddens has no experience, but the Uncle immediately trusts her and offers her the position, provided that she handle all matters relating to the children and never (EVER) disturbs him. The Uncle is determined to get a new governess after the previous governess, Miss Jessell, unexpectedly died the year before.


Miss Giddens arrives at the manor to meet the sweet natured Flora and the pragmatic housekeeper Mrs. Grose (Meg Jenkins). Upon Miss Giddens' first night she hears strange noises coming from outside. Flora tells Miss Giddens to ignore such things as they eventually go away.


Things seem to go well until Miles is expelled from school and returns home. Miles is charming at first, but soon becomes troublesome and aggressive. Mysterious happenings begin to overtake the manor. Miss Giddens starts to see obscure figures staring at her through windows or watching the children from across the lake. The film has a creepiness to it, as the children seem to be aware of these presences, but unwilling to discuss it. In fact, much to Miss Giddens discomfort, the children outright deny seeing the ghosts.


After confronting the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose finally confesses that she also see the spirits, but she too tries very hard to ignore them. Mrs. Grose tells Miss Giddens that the spirits are that of the former governess and the former valet, Quint. Quint and Miss Jessell were in a relationship in which Quint was very abusive to her and she was completely co-dependent on him. Quint died suddenly from a drunken slip on the stairs. Miss Jessel joined him soon after by committing suicide by jumping in the lake.


Miss Giddens figures out that the ghosts are possessing the children as a means of keeping in contact with each other. She comes to believe that if the children admit that they see the ghosts they will be freed from possession. Miss Giddens tries to tend to the children despite being frightened by bumps in the night and ghoulish apparitions.


One night when she checks on Flora she finds Miles roaming the gardens. When she brings him inside and tries to put him back to bed he kisses her in an entirely inappropriate manner, which reinforces what Miss Giddens believes about the children's possession.


When the children's behavior inexplicably worsens, Miss Giddens unsuccessfully confronts Flora about the presence of Miss Jessel. When that doesn't work Miss Giddens sends Flora and Mrs. Grose away, along with all of the servants. Miss Giddens decides to confront Miles alone. Unfortunately her actions have chilling consequences.


Admittedly, I was surprised by just how creepy the film felt. The use of shadows and sound was surprisingly effective. The complicated camerawork and the black and white cinematography made the film especially eerie. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give this film (unlike other Blind Spots I've seen) is that this film stands the test of time. And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then 'The Innocents' should be very flattered. Countless films have emulated this film, the latest being 'The Conjuring.' 'In fact, the lullaby from this film was used in 'The Ring.'

The best part about 'The Innocents' is that the full movie is available on Youtube. This was fortunate because I could not find 'The Innocents' on Amazon or Netflix Instant. Now that Roku offers Youtube I was able to watch it on my television. I would definitely recommend watching 'The Innocents' on a dark and stormy night with some popcorn. 

10 comments:

  1. I've not seen this one. Sometimes the subtle chills are the most effective. They don't make many movies like this anymore, opting for over-the-top special effects instead.

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    1. You know Alex-- This is so true. It really is a psychological horror film. It's a lost art.

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  2. Thanks for the sweet review Ms. Mariah! I've never seen this, so I love how atmospheric your review is. You're right we just don't see that kind of complicated camerawork and black and white cinematography these days. Wishing you a dope day!

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    1. Hi Maurice, thanks! Yes, I enjoyed it. I've been really enjoying the blindspots all year.

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  3. Looks like a pretty interesting film.

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    1. Hi Lady Lillith-- Thanks! I thought so too.

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  4. Agree there's a creepiness to it. I liked the atmosphere of the film, and how ambiguous the story is. I think not revealing Giddens back story was necessary, so as to keep us guessing.

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    1. I agree. It did keep me guessing. Sometimes I think the less the audience knows the better.

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  5. Definitely one of my favorite ghost films ever. Its eerie atmosphere is tough to recapture nowadays.

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    1. I completely agree. Great atmosphere! It was definitely spooky. Thankfully I think more modern day horror films are channeling these older eerie films, instead of the shock/torture stuff like Saw.

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