Oldie But a Goodie

     Hollywood has a way of making ghosts seem real through various effects. Sometimes it is so real; people leave the movie theater wandering if it were really just a movie. A perfect example of the creation of ghosts though effects is the pair of ghosts in The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton in 1961 and based on The Turn of the Screw, written in 1898 by Henry James. The music, sound effects, and lighting captured the creepiness of the story and gave a very modern edge to it. The movie was much better than the book because it captured all the little things that lead the governess, named Miss Giddens in the movie and played by Deborah Kerr, to believe there are ghosts. As a matter of fact, this 1961 movie is more realistic than many modern movies. For example, Nightmare on Elm Street 1, directed in 1984 by Wes Craven, had the potential for an extremely frightening movie instead of the mediocre quality it achieved. If some of the effects employed in The Innocents would have been used in Nightmare on Elm Street 1, the latter film could have achieved a superior quality. It is disappointing that the new technology could not have been used in a more effective way.

     Nightmare on Elm Street 1 is based on a child killer, Freddy Kruegar (Robert Englund), who was acquitted on a technicality. He was roasted alive by a mob of irate parents and comes back through the dreams of Nancy Tompson (Heather Langenkamp). She sees what is going to happen to people before he does it. However, she is the only person who is able to see him. Eventually, she is able to drag him out of the dream and roast him again. On the other hand,The Innocents is based on two ghosts, Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) and Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde), that try to come back through children. The two children and the governess can see the ghosts. It seems as though the children communicate with the ghosts and possibly even become them. In the end, the governess has to expose the ghosts in order to destroy them.

     In both movies, the ghosts seem to appear out of nowhere and are only seen by select people. The element of scary music is used in both to enhance the suspense as well. Portraying people in a certain way is an important element in these movies. For instance, the girl in Nightmare ages throughout the movie and takes on a creepy quality from lack of sleep. On the other hand, the children in The Innocents are extremely creepy. As depicted by Pamela Franklin and Miles Stephens, Flora and Miles have a thoroughly insane quality about them. The scene where Miles recites his poem really proves how insane he was and how he worships Quint. Flora's constant repetition of the song played by Miss Jessel's jewelry box adds a creepy edge and shows dedication to the ghost. Lighting is another important element to scary movies. The Innocents has often deliberately dim lighting through the movie that makes everything seem eerie. Although there are points where the lighting adds an edge to Nightmare, the movie does not capture this aspect as well.

     Overall both movies are scary, but without a doubt The Innocents is better. The major reason for that is the poor use of special effects. It is disappointing that the technology could not be used more adequately. It can be said about many modern films that they are not nearly as creepy as their predecessors are. There is a high quality of film to follow when one is looking back at our history, but maybe someday there will be success in capturing the same terrifying quality of previous films.

Allison Groner

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