Not your typical kids flick….
Placing a child in a horror situation is a pretty terrifying watch but one that guarantees some moments of scare and blood curdling chills as the viewer has no choice but sit there and watch the events unfold.
Its a plot vice used in many Stephen King novels and one of the main reasons why Netflix has a gigantic hit on their hands with the 80’s inspired Stranger Things and while Eskil Vogt’s second feature shares more in common within the imagination of King, in some scenes you’ll be half expecting Eleven herself to turn up from Hawkins and do battle with the kids in the middle of their Norwegian housing estate. Even the film’s poster sort of hints at the world the Duffer Brothers have created with an upside down image that cries out for a bit of a Kate Bush singsong.
But be warned! The Innocents may have a lot of strange things happening, , but these kids are not interested in playing Dungeons and Dragons in their basements, instead enjoying the company of a lonely cat which results in one of most distressing scenes from a film in 2022 that will no doubt deeply upset animal lovers who may not recover to watch the rest of the events unfold.
But the grimness starts from the opening scene, the scent of foreboding clashing with the beautiful artistic direction from Vogt as we watch the waking 9-year-old Ida (Rakel Lenora Flottum) start to pinch the thigh of her autistic sister Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad) that summons an unsettling feeling in which you want to reach out and help stop the onscreen torture.
With their parents attention focussed on Anna, Ida has a typical summer where there is not much too do. Hot days, a nearby park where her parents use for a brief respite as Ida becomes a babysitter. Its there that she meets Ben (Sam Ashraf), a loner who just happens to have delightful trick involving a bottle cap fly through the air without touching it. Ida is impressed, the cat later on isn’t, but then the story develops,
Anna herself strikes up a friendship with a girl called Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim), who somehow knows what Anna is saying, which results in changes in Anna, while Ben’s “trick” gets stronger as each day passes and soon, a children’s game becomes a battlefield and blood is spilled.
The slow burn may be off putting for some, but The Innocents is quite possibly one of the best films of the year. The plot never races towards a high adrenalin climax, instead virtually staying at one pace, but incredibly it does not need a big bang finale. Vogt instead mixes the mood as one scene may offer some touching moments and then the next you’ll be sitting there anxious at what is happening. Psychologically it plays with your mind, a film in which at times you want to look away but your eyes won’t let you.
Its not a bloodbath, with gore at a minimal, but a feeling of real life stakes, a horror unfolding all in broad daylight, a kids adventure that is not for kids and a perfect movie for those wanting to explain why they never want children…..