An Innocent Turn of the Screw

         In the 1961 film adaptation of Henry James's 1898 The Turn of the Screw, titled The Innocents, the film makers developed many techniques that are still used today in modern horror films. Even though it was filmed in black and white, the movie still managed to achieve a horrific tone that many of today's blood-soaked imitations cannot simply live up to. Films such as The Grudge, directed in 2004 by Takashi Shimizu, or The Ring, directed in 2002 by Gore Verbinski, simply cannot match The Innocents because, instead of relying on incomprehensible story lines and gratuitous gore, it generated its mood through the actors.

         While there are films that can be extremely gory and, at the same time, suspenseful (such as the original Saw), many of today's films simply focus on gore, gore, and more gore, insomuch as to push the MPAA R-rating to its limits (such as Eli Roth's 2005 Hostel). Even though The Innocents had no gore to speak of, it still managed to successfully place its audience into suspense. It took its time in building up its suspense instead of just opening with a drastically gory scene that would make Jack the Ripper squirm.

         The aspect of the film that causes it to work as a horror movie is simply its child actors, Martin Stephens, who played Miles, and Pamela Franklin, who depicted Flora. There is nothing on this planet that are creepier than little kids speaking above their grade level and about topic that they simply should not know about (unless it is an old woman who has hair whiter than snow and a shriveled figure resembling a raisin, such as the woman from Richard Kelly's 2001 Donnie Darko). Just look at the boy in Kubrick's 1980 The Shining or even Linda Blair in William Friedkin's 1973 The Exorcist. Young children just have an innocence surrounding them that makes it hard to think of them knowing more than their a-b-c's, needless to say them knowing about death or anything of that nature.

         Overall, The Innocents is a film that should be looked at again by Hollywood. It almost seems to be that Hollywood believes that fear comes from gore. Hardly a week goes by without a "horror" movie from Hollywood being released that garners an almost zero percent rating from Rotten Tomatoes because they simply are not scary. But, if they were to take a look at The Innocents, someone might see that true fear comes from suspense. Maybe then, we would get some decent horror movies instead of remakes of recent Japanese films that make little to no sense to anyone and rely on gore and pop stars to generate an audience.

Joseph Dublin

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