Directed by: Eskil Vogt
Premise: A Norwegian family and their two daughters move into a community of high rise apartments. Their daughters befriend two neighborhood children who have psychic and telekinetic abilities, a power one of them abuses.
What Works: The Innocents is a slow burn horror picture about childhood, power, and the nature of evil. It’s an upsetting film not in the least because it centers around children and depicts them doing some awful things. But this isn’t just a provocation. The filmmakers approach this material with intelligence and create characters with depth. The story centers on pre-teen sisters Ida and Anna (Rakel Lenora Fløttum and Alva Brynsmo Ramstad). Anna is severely autistic, to the point of being virtually uncommunicative, and the attention she requires causes some resentment in Ida. The girls meet Ben (Sam Ashraf) and Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim), who have telekinetic and psychic abilities and Aisha is able to communicate with Anna and awakens the autistic girl’s telekinetic power. The relationship between the children is convincing and organic and the depiction of autism admirably does not sugar coat or exploit the character’s condition. The filmmakers give these child characters credit; they have agency and must make difficult decisions especially as Ben starts lashing out with his power in increasingly violent ways.
What Doesn’t: The Innocents is not gory but it is deeply disconcerting. The early portion of the movie depicts children hurting people as well as animals in ways that are cruel and brutal. These scenes are justified insofar as they support the development of the characters and the themes of the story. However, The Innocents is not a conventionally fun horror picture. That is not a slight on its artistic merits. Quite the opposite. The filmmakers show daring and seriousness in their exploration of evil and personal responsibility. It’s a movie that offers a lot to talk about but it’s probably not ideal for a Halloween movie night.
Disc extras: None.
Bottom Line: The Innocents is a challenging and in some ways unpleasant movie but it is also extremely well crafted with a thoughtful script and great performances by its child actors. It is a tough watch but offers a lot to think about afterward.
Episode: #923 (October 23, 2022)