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The Innocents

The Innocents (1961)

tomatometer

97

Average Rating: 8.4/10
Reviews Counted: 37
Fresh: 36 | Rotten: 1

Creepily atmospheric, The Innocents is a stylishly crafted, chilling British ghost tale with Deborah Kerr at her finest.

83

Average Rating: 6.4/10
Critic Reviews: 6
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 1

Creepily atmospheric, The Innocents is a stylishly crafted, chilling British ghost tale with Deborah Kerr at her finest.

audience

86

liked it
Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 7,564

My Rating

Movie Info

In this lugubrious but brilliantly realized adaptation of Henry James' classic novella The Turn of the Screw, 19th century British governess Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) arrives at a bleak mansion to take care of Flora (Pamela Franklin) and Miles (Martin Stephens), the wealthy household's two children. Outwardly the children are little darlings, but the governess begins to feel that there's something unwholesome behind those beatific smiles. After several disturbing examples of the children's

Sep 6, 2005

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All Critics (37) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (36) | Rotten (1) | DVD (12)

If the picture is journeyman James, it is also pitapatational entertainment, the most sophisticated scare show since Diabolique.

October 19, 2010 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Based on Henry James' story Turn of the Screw this catches an eerie, spine-chilling mood right at the start and never lets up on its grim, evil theme.

September 10, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Too much Freud and too little thought.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comments (13)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Is it the finest, smartest, most visually savvy horror film ever made by a big studio?

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: Village Voice
Village Voice
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Jack Clayton's 1961 chiller lives up to the story's title, incrementally tightening the nerves through suggestive technical artistry in a way that few contemporary ghost stories manage.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Sends some formidable chills down the spine.

May 9, 2005 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Oozing ambiguity, Jack Clayton's shimmering gem is a masterclass in suggestion, a flawless evocation of the uncanny which pits the subconscious against the supernatural to genuinely hair-raising effect.

December 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

A crackling, eerie, coldly beautiful account of the novel, which reveals new subtleties and meanings every time you go back.

December 13, 2013 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

If you've never seen Jack Clayton's 1961 adaptation of Henry James's Turn of the Screw, hurl yourself into a cinema ASAP.

December 13, 2013 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

An elegant, sinister and scalp-prickling ghost story - as scary in its way as Rosemary's Baby or The Exorcist.

December 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Guardian
Guardian

The ambiguity of Henry James's story is all here, along with a horrible seam of rottenness ...

December 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Financial Times
Financial Times

One of cinema's great ghost stories is also an essay on the psychological realities of film acting.

December 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Little White Lies
Little White Lies

So much is suggested, and so little shown.

December 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Electric Sheep
Electric Sheep

The film bristles with menace as it draws you inexorably towards its chilling conclusion.

October 7, 2013 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

One of the creepiest films ever made.

October 9, 2012 Full Review Source: The Age (Australia)
The Age (Australia)

A brilliant, atmospheric supernatural thriller with a superb central performance by Deborah Kerr.

June 9, 2011 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

...sends shivers down the backbone, playing the vertebrae like a skeletal hand tapping on a xylophone.

February 16, 2011 Full Review Source: Cinefantastique
Cinefantastique

Jack Clayton's genuinely sinister Victorian ghost movie is a British cinema classic.

October 19, 2010 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

This classy English mystery is adorned by a wonderful Deborah Kerr as the governess driven to extremes by a strange, haunted mansion and strange, haunted children,

December 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

This unresolved mystery charges the events ... with a dreadful sense of uncertainty far more thrilling than the simple supernatural chills of a typical haunted house movie -- another "turn of the screw," as James would have said.

July 4, 2008 Full Review Source: ESplatter
ESplatter

Kerr is on top form here, enacting a role that takes perfect advantage of her respectable facade wrestling with unspeakable turbulence beneath the surface.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Stylish, intelligent and creepy. Cinematic storytelling at its finest, where word and image are perfectly married.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4

Audience Reviews for The Innocents

It tackles the material in quite a corageous way for a 1960s mainstream British film. The sumptuous deep focus photography and set decoration make one fear getting lost in the mysterious shadows of its widescreen framing, with a perfectly propper Deborah Kerr making it difficult for us to second guess how this maybe-not-so-sane nanny will proceed with every creek of the old house. Mary Poppins she ain't.
October 25, 2011
Matheus Carvalho

Super Reviewer

Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), a nineteenth century British governess, is appointed to take care of two children, Flora (Pamela Franklin) and Miles (Martin Stephens). Upon arriving at the bleak mansion she meets the housekeeper (Megs Jenkins) and also Flora. Miles arrives a few days later from school. The children seem like little angels but, following a series of bizarre events and examples of the children's wicked impulses, Miss Giddens begins to suspect that all is not what it seems.

This dark and atmospheric tale is a wonderful example of how to create an admirable horror movie that, although has violent undertones, features very little violence when all is said and done. 'The Innocents' is certainly a psychological horror movie which leaves in doubt how much of the inexplicable happenings are supernatural, and how much is in the mind of the protagonist, Miss Giddens. Director Jack Clayton uses some astonishing visual trickery and ghostly effects to create and maintain a very unsettling atmosphere, almost from the very beginning. A number of effective ghostly apparitions are displayed on screen during the movie from varying distances which gives 'The Innocents' a constant, foreboding atmosphere. The way some scene changes blend with the end of the previous scene are rather disconcerting and almost dream like as there are long lingering images, once again, wholly adding to the effect. Some of the dialogue may seem a little unrealistic, but in general the movie is well scripted and features a few very dramatic scenes thanks to some delightfully written dialogue and strong acting performances. William Archibald and Truman Capote both won awards for their script writing.

The only real fault with 'The Innocents' is how fast the film moves along. Miss Giddens seems to realise the truth of what is happening all too quickly. This does not make 'The Innocents' less enjoyable, but it would have been nice to have had an extra ten minutes or so explaining the story to us a bit more. 'The Innocents' has a sustained tone of dread throughout the movie. It seems that Miss Giddens is unable to move without being confronted by some spectre or seeing some rather peculiar behaviour exhibited from the children. I'd compare the dark atmosphere with that of 'The Haunting' (1963), both movies are comparable in the way they are presented and are both aesthetically pleasing. The acting was of a high standard, though one must forgive the two young performers if they occasionally seemed to overact. Martin Stephens was very good as Miles, playing his sinister part with an awful power, even though the character's superciliousness became somewhat of an annoyance. Megs Jenkins was also delightful as the anxious housekeeper Mrs. Grose. From the moment Mrs. Grose is first introduced the viewer can begin to suspect something. Jenkins came across as a friendly, but scared, woman who is desperate to maintain decorum in the house. A fine performance suited her character marvellously. One must also mention Deborah Kerr's fine performance as Miss Giddens as she played it with the right balance of inquisitiveness and fear. Deborah's dramatic performance certainly helped make this movie fantastic and one sympathises with her deeply as the film ends on the sombre and heartbreaking note that it does.

'The Innocents' is an elegant and stylish movie that is certainly worth watching. Fans of 'The Omen' and 'Village of the Damned' should enjoy this as well as any fan of dark, atmospheric horror. A strong screenplay, fine performances and breathtaking visual trickery make this movie a very pleasing addition to the horror genre and I highly recommend it to all. 'The Innocents' was able to scoop a BAFTA Award (British Academy of Film and Television Awards) for Best British Film as well as a BAFTA nomination for Jack Clayton which he thoroughly deserved.
February 10, 2011
matertenebraum

Super Reviewer

Remarkable, damn-near flawless early British horror. The Innocents deserves far more recognition than it currently recieves; so far it seems to be a rare treasure.
One of the few horrors that can be truly called ground-breaking, The Innocents quickly sets to work slaying the sacred cow of childish good-will and decency, and is perhaps the first 'scary child' picture (how hollow that sounds now). Kerr is excellent, and a brilliant 'straight' counter to the secretive, fantastical and sinister nature of her two young charges, presenting a tale tinged with 19th century darkness and deception, but never once going too far into the supernatural. In fact, it's chilling because it feels so possible.
Not only is the acting top, but the camerawork is incredible, offering both peaceful splendour and low-level tracking shots that emphasise the gothic trapping of that disquieting house. Beautiful.
October 25, 2010
guttersnipe28

Super Reviewer

Atmospheric horror film about an inexperienced governess who comes to a large estate to take care of two children that share a dark secret. Supernatural ghost story uses sumptuous cinematography and eerie lighting for maximum effect. This is a classy production, something few horror films can claim. Not scary, but rather a grim mood piece that maintains an air of apprehension throughout the course of the film. The plot actually develops into something rather sinister. That Deborah Kerr is brilliant is expected, but child actor Martin Stephens is a marvel as Miles.
November 9, 2009
hobster1

Super Reviewer

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