Hardie Writes: The Innocents
Fantastic Film Reviewer Nathan is back and this time he is reviewing The Innocents
Supernatural horror is currently in a renaissance period. After its Golden Age spanned the seventies with classics including The Exorcist and The Omen, continuing strong into the eighties by sprinkling some comedy into an already surreal genre with The Evil Dead and BeetleJuice, the industry became bogged down with uninspired sequels not even die-hard fans could tolerate. Now resurrected in the last decade and pumping out consistent box-office successes, it’s unfortunate that Hollywood still hasn’t learned this lesson. Saturated with the duopoly of James Wan and Stephen King cinematic universes, it’s independent cinema that’s providing the true shocks and uncomfortable moments, many found within The Innocents.
Directed by Eskil Vogt (who wrote romantic comedy The Worst Person in the World alongside Joachim Trier), The Innocents centres around four children living in the same apartment complex during the summer holidays. Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum) and her older sister Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad) have recently moved to the area and are looking to make new friends when they meet Ben (Sam Ashraf) and Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim). As they get closer and bonds develop, the children realise they have special abilities that tie them together.
Telekinesis, mind reading and telepathy are all on display as they push the boundaries of what’s possible. As their powers enhance and further realisations of their capabilities occur, emotions start to affect how they choose to use them. What would normally result in silly playground fights now has devastating consequences, and temper tantrums are a lot harder to control.
Although, the horror and brutality are present from the start, the viciousness of kids is a significant dynamic throughout the film as they vie for love and acceptance or are simply passing the time. Hard pinches, broken glass placed in shoes and the opposite of a “save the cat” moment had me peering through my fingers in anguish after only fifteen minutes of runtime. Yet, it’s the sound that grated on me the most, with each crunch and whack so piercing that it led to some severe squirming in my seat. The movie doesn’t rely upon jump scares or gore, but realistic pain the audience can imagine feeling. This aspect allows you to be immersed in the picture and creates a more believable world, something required when the kids are staring intently at each other using mind powers. Its well-paced introduction of supernatural mischief also helps ease over the more cynical viewers.
Its well-paced introduction of supernatural mischief also helps ease over the more cynical viewers
Starting slowly with a bottle-cap flung along the floor and sending messages through a mental game of Telephone, The Innocents remains accessible whilst never spelling itself out, presenting nuanced character development whilst keeping us on our toes.
It’s the characters that make the film such an interesting watch. We mostly see from Ida’s perspective and initially she comes off as quite unlikable. Her sister Anna has a form of non-verbal autism so there’s a bitterness when responsibility is bestowed upon Ida to look after her, but also jealousy at the extra attention Anna receives from their parents (played by Fløttum’s mother Ellen Dorrit Petersen and Morten Svartveit). However, when Anna is able to communicate with Aisha, Ida experiences a mixture of happiness for the connection and sadness that it wasn’t with her. There’s a lot of complex emotions and questions posed not expected from supernatural horrors, excellently portrayed by these young actors. Thankfully, whilst such a crucial element of the story, the movie doesn’t use autism as a trope.
Thankfully, whilst such a crucial element of the story, the movie doesn’t use autism as a trope
Many pieces of media depict those on the spectrum as having secret powers, something that has become absorbed into the mainstream way of thinking and treating those who are neurodivergent. Instead, The Innocents uses abilities to focus on allegories of social outcasts and the games children play. Even this is only one potential interpretation, adding to the surprising amount of depth. Complimented with incredibly tense, nervy and squeamish moments, this stylish Nordic horror is a gem worth watching, even if it has put me off having kids anytime soon.
Have you seen The Innocents? What were your thoughts on the Supernatural horror?