“They must be made to admit what is happening — one word, one word of the truth from these children, and we can cast out those devils forever!”
The performances in The Innocents are, across the board, superb. It’s difficult to imagine anyone better than Kerr at playing Miss Giddens, an idealistic, faithful, sexually repressed woman who is mortified to learn that her sweet charges may have been corrupted — and who will stop at nothing to “clear” them of their sins. Both Pamela Franklin (who, six years later, starred in Clayton’s Our Mother’s House) and Martin Stephens (from Village of the Damned) are entirely believable as the inscrutable siblings, and Megs Jenkins rounds out the cast beautifully as the children’s well-meaning, naive maid — her performance never hits a false note, and is essential to the success of the story.
Equally impressive are the film’s visuals, including the stunning black-and-white cinematography, appropriately baroque set designs, and effective use of pastoral outdoor settings. Much like in Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963) and Val Lewton’s early films for RKO, the frights here are cinematically suggested rather than made explicit, with Clayton using a variety of techniques (including deep focus framing and double exposure) to evoke horror; yet even some straightforward shots — such as a bug crawling out of a statue’s mouth — are enough to cause one to jump. Ultimately, the “horror” here is truly psychological, indicating that the worst monsters are the ones we — like Miss Giddens — conjure up for ourselves.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: