What about the Blood and Guts?

     Every horror movie contains certain elements that either make or break the movie. The usual elements include a good storm, eerie clues, gore, foreshadowing, howling winds, screaming and other sound effects, and of course a good story line. Jack Clayton's 1961 film The Innocents has almost every element of a good horror film and can be compared to many great horror films of today, and of the past.

The Innocents uses a lot of ironic and dramatic foreshadowing. For example, when Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) first encounters the ghost of Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde), he is seen on the tower; and, when she reaches the top of the tower, she finds Miles (Martin Stephens). Another example of some dramatic foreshadowing is evident when Miles reads a poem in which he asks what he should say to "his Lord" when he meets him. At the end of his poem he looks out a window in which Miss Giddens has just had her second encounter with Peter Quint. These two examples of foreshadowing suggest the possession of Miles by Peter Quint. All horror movies, no matter how goofy or B-rated, contain this type of illusive foreshadowing. Even Dead Alive or Bruce Campbell's The Evil Dead contains this type of foreshadowing, no matter how subtle.

     Another element that is used very well in The Innocents is the use of eerie music. The same music-box melody is continually brought out at critical moments of The Innocents to enhance the mystical feel of the movie. This kind of dramatic usage of music has been heard in many popular films of today; for example the movie series Halloween contains a tune in which Michael Myers, the villain, appears very shortly after the first shrilling note. Other movies, such as Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street, use this same type of musical appeal.

     The most important element of a horror story is the story line. The story line of The Innocents, based on Henry James's 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw, is very similar to an episode of the X-Files. In this particular episode a young boy is born into a family of a cultic religion. This young boy had an evil twin whom the family had killed; however, the ghost of the evil twin has come back and is trying to possess the body of the good twin. In this episode the detectives question the liability of the family's belief and in the end verify it by the encounter of the ghost. This particular X-Files episode carries the same theme of possession as the novel-based film The Innocents. The theme of possession in general is a very popular theme for a horror movie. Many popular horror films have to do with possession, for example Child's Play, The Exorcist, and Poltergeist, to name a few.

     In the year of 1961 another great horror story was put to the test of film. This film was based on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum. "The Pit and the Pendulum" also deals with the theme of possession; however, it is the usual possession of a house. Nevertheless, both versions dealt with the question of a person's sanity or insanity and the innocence of the characters. Mystery and suspense must be contained in a good horror story, or it is no good at all. The more decisions and intricately a mystery is written or told, the more likely the story is to succeed.

     There are reasons that a good novel or movie is rendered a classic. There are certain elements that they must contain to be considered a great. In my ignorance I have tried to separate certain elements that make-up a good horror film and have applied them to the film The Innocents. The only element that I have found missing is gore; however, in its ancient rite the movie cannot be criticized for this.

Elizabeth Satterwhite

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