The sucess of the horror genre has proven time and time again that people enjoy being scared. Whether it is Child's Play, directed by Tom Holland in 1988, Bride of Chucky, directed by Ronny Yu in 1988, Sean Cunninhgam's 1980 Friday the 13th's Jason Voorhees, or the zombies from Dawn of the Dead, directed in 2004 by Zack Snyder, unnatural antagonists who exist purely to make the main characters' lives miserable (and, in many cases, to end said lives) scare people again and again because they keep coming back for more. Although The Innocents, Jack Clayton's 1961 screen adaptation of Henry James's 1898 The Turn of the Screw, does not share any real similarities with anything in the modern horror genre, it still provides its own unique brand of fright, one that I found myself enjoying at every turn.
At first, the main character, the governess, named Miss Giddens in the movie as played by Deborah Kerr, does not see anything wrong with Flora (Pamela Franklin) and Miles (Martin Stephens), the children she has been hired to care for. As the movie goes on, however, it is slowly revealed that Flora and Miles may not be who they seem to be. In fact, they may be the centerpieces of an insidious plot, whether they are aware of it or not; and, once the governess, realizes something is amiss, she becomes determined to stop it.
What are definitely the creepiest parts of this film are the ghost scenes. The first one especially seems to stick out in my mind, as the governess, spots a ghost, Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde) atop a tower. The scene was very well-done; time seemed to stop, everything became quiet, and it only returned to normal once the apparition had departed.
Another is the scene in which the governess, is walking down the hall at night, holding a torch of lit candles. The voices heard during her walk, accompanied by her slowly starting to panic, make for a frighteningly memorable scene.
The ending was also very well-done, and seems to validate the governess, suspicions, proving her fears were correct. Instead of a happy "the day is won and evil is defeated forever" ending, a sort of pyrrhic victory occurs. Yes, she rids Miles of the spirit that haunts him, but at the cost of his life, a chilling end to the disturbing events of the picture.
The brilliant thing about The Innocents' brand of horror is that it does not do anything for pure "shock value." No blood, no rampaging monsters, no horrible killers behind masks, but it does not need any of that. The horror here is almost purely psychological, and that is what separates it from the slasher flicks.