The Innocents Screen 9 articles

The Innocents


The Innocents Poster
  • Jack Clayton's 1962 version of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw manages some routine suspense, but largely it's a typically British exercise in tasteful tedium. Clayton lacks the Jamesian temper, and his film is finally more indecisive than ambiguous.

  • Is it the finest, smartest, most visually savvy horror film ever made by a big studio? ...Clayton's filmmaking, mustering frisson by both candle and blazing daylight, could serve as an object lesson in its genre. Only Robert Wise's The Haunting, out two years later, came close to its edge-of-sight menace, repressed gothic angst, and all-suggestion creep-outs.

  • Though it _is_ an undeniably terrifying movie, its virtues would be clear in any filmic category. More than fifty years later, The Innocents remains one of the least compromised, most genuinely unsettling movies of the 1960s, a horror film in both the metaphysical and psychological senses, brought to the screen with more care and craftsmanship than the haunted-house genre probably ever received before or since.

  • The Innocents is not merely a film about acting, but specifically about the psychological specifics of child acting. Indeed, it should be the set-text on the subject. There is too much to love about this movie, but all its great 'moments' are carefully primed to coalesce into a single, dreadfully disturbing whole.

  • The Innocents is a work of chilly and well-modulated hysteria; its mood of ironic and stiflingly prim and decaying "correctness" occasionally recalls Psycho, only without the set pieces to keep you charged and jangly.

  • The Innocents is perhaps the most haunting ghost story ever committed to film... [It] shows little but suggests much, and its refinement in no way detracts from its ability to disturb and, yes, haunt moviegoers more accustomed to the sucker punch than to the inexorable turn of the screw, the gradual accretion of incidents that mean little in and of themselves but add up to something truly shocking and impossible to shake.

  • To this day [it] still ranks among the greatest of horror films... The Innocents is more tense than frightening — though it is very, very frightening. (It still contains at least one of the great scares of cinema. I won’t tell you what it is, except to say that, like so many things in this film, it involves a window.) But that tension hits us in a very deep place, because it’s borne of something more sinister than just cinematic trickery and plot manipulation.

  • Clayton said that he believed in ghosts, and yet the ghosts that come back to haunt Miss Giddens in The Innocents are both convincingly present and also convincingly specters that could be emanating from her own repressed Victorian mind. Clayton uses the wide Cinemascope in The Innocents so that the characters are always kept in focus and in balance in different parts of the frame, but it is what remains outside of the very sharply defined frame that obsesses that entire shivery movie.

  • Two highly disconcerting hours later, it turns out that the type of horror movies that age are the ones that revolve around a very contemporary type of shock. But aim for the subconscious, and you get something timeless. All you really need are lights, shadows, the right pacing, a good actor’s face, a subtext that corkscrews its way into your mind, and a director—like the estimable Jack Clayton—who knows how to use them.

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