Newest Review: ... is how it is extremely patient. It's not afraid to take its time and tell the story properly, building up the atmosphere before introducin... more
Spooky goings on at Bly
The Innocents (DVD)
Member Name: pmcds
The Innocents (DVD)
Advantages: Kerr, child actors, direction and patience
Jack Clayton's adaptation of Henry James' novel Turn of the Screw is considered a horror classic that is set apart from the usual Hammer style British horror prevalent during the second part of the 1960s. It's a spooky film as opposed to the gory horror, but its appeal and power is in its visual simplicity.
Deborah Kerr plays Miss Giddens, a governess employed to look after two young children, Flora and Miles, following the death of their previous governess the year before. Upon arrival at Bly, the country estate where the children's uncle has sent her to look after them, Miss Giddens soon settles in, but begins to suspect there is something sinister going on when the children start behaving strangely and weird noises are heard throughout the house. As she finds out more about the death of the previous governess and her lover, the valet, she becomes convinced that their spirits are still present.
One of the best things about this film is how it is extremely patient. It's not afraid to take its time and tell the story properly, building up the atmosphere before introducing any sinister elements. There are hardly any characters in the film, and the main focus is on Miss Giddens, the two children and the housekeeper Mrs Grose. Once the spookiness starts, it is minimal and builds. It starts off with the children acting ever so slightly strangely, then comes the eerie music, the whispers and other sounds, and finally the apparitions of the two deceased former staff at Bly.
The slow build up picks up pace as Kerr develops Miss Giddens before our eyes. Her prim and proper depiction of the character is matched by the righteous and religious nature she has, and the fact that a woman of her age is still unmarried in these times is something that is repeated in her treatment and judgment of the situation between the previous governess and the valet, one of improper relations and forbidden love. This has obviously had an impact on the children, and we are constantly reminded of this by their presence in the film, their innocence seeming to mask something a little more sinister although you only have a gut feeling shared by Miss Giddens to back this up.
The child actors do a fabulous job, something it's quite refreshing to see if I'm honest. Child actors are so often wooden and obviously false, relying on their cuteness for effect. Here though, the impact is generally with their acting, both verbal and visual. I was impressed with both of them, especially when Kerr was with them. There was a good level of chemistry between them all that I noted early on. There is also strong support from Megs Jenkins as Mrs Grose, an essential character in many ways - while her actions have no impact whatsoever, her existence as a sounding block and a source of information for Miss Giddens is essential, else we would have 100 minutes of confusion from the governess and some spooky noises and apparitions and little else. It's the explanation and clarity that this character provides.
Strongly directed, with clear build up to a dramatic ending, this is a powerfully delivered film with some cleverly woven scenes that means special effects are not necessary. Clayton is able to provide the necessary impact with reflection and the use of light and dark very effectively, especially with the long and short range camera angles. The mere existence of one character where they shouldn't be is powerful enough without movement or special effects, and the appearance and disappearance of another, at times slow and at others quicker, a face of a hand here and there, is well balanced for the scare factor. There are a few potential jumpy moments in here, and it's very well done indeed.
Simple and very effective in many ways, the solid acting and clever direction make this a joy to watch. I can't say it's a film I would watch again, but it's certainly one that deserves the accolades and praise it has received. Not one I'd recommend for younger children due to the scarier moments, but well worth a watch otherwise. Recommended.
Summary: Excellent spooky 60s film