The Innocents Review: Beware of the Creepy Kids

Posted 2022/05/09 4 0

Playground children with supernatural abilities become mortal enemies at a Norwegian apartment complex. The Innocents shows how unchecked power in immature hands can lead to devastating outcomes. What begins as a curious exploration takes a sinister and murderous turn. The Innocents adds a Lord of the Flies sensibility to a horror film. The endearing qualities of youth are easily corrupted by bad intentions. Cruelty runs amok in the absence of supervision. Its slow-burn approach fills you with uneasiness and dread. Many questions are left unanswered in a tense climax.

Nine-year-old Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum) moves with her parents (Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Morten Svartveit) and older autistic sister, Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad), to a new apartment. Ida scoffs at Anna’s seemingly mindless behavior. She pinches and plays hurtful pranks on her sister to elicit a pain response. Anna never reacts to Ida’s malice.

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Ida meets Ben (Sam Ashraf), a strange boy who lives in an adjacent building with his abusive mother (Lisa Tønne). Ida follows Ben to his tree fort in the woods. She’s impressed that Ben can move objects with his mind. Meanwhile, another girl, Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim), can sense Anna’s presence. She starts to communicate with Anna’s locked personality and they develop a psychic connection.

Aisha and Anna are somehow drawn to Ben. They can feel the darkness inside him. Ida, who exhibits no powers, gets a horrific look at Ben’s casual aggression. He lashes out at anyone who challenges him and enjoys hurting people. The children get stronger. As the bond deepens between Aisha and Anna, Ida recognizes just how dangerous Ben has become.

Seen Through the Eyes of the Children

The Innocents is seen entirely through the eyes of the children. Ida is a petulant girl with little empathy. She views her sister as a strange object siphoning their parents’ attention. Her coldness attracts the sociopathic Ben; who has no conscience and relishes anger. Aisha embraces feelings. Her warmth and kindness give Anna a conduit for expression; which triggers an epiphany in Ida. She experiences guilt for abusing her sister. Ben does not understand this growth and succumbs to his worst instincts.

Director/writer Eskil Vogt does a magnificent job with his young cast. He also co-wrote The Worst Person in the World with frequent collaborator Joachim Trier. Vogt has a gift for portraying ugly truths. Ben and Ida’s naïveté isn’t cute or affectionate. They follow their selfish interests to troubling outcomes. Vogt shoots their faces in stark close-ups. We see them grappling with the results of awful decisions, then going further down the rabbit hole instead of comprehending their actions. Ida makes a fateful decision when she finally realizes what’s at stake.

The Innocents is not a Children of the Corn rehash. The supernatural elements are never explained. We can infer from fleeting imagery that the apartments may be haunted. Why are adults not affected? Eskil Vogt purposely leaves several threads dangling. I’m not usually a fan of loose ends, but those creepy kids had me hooked.

The Innocents, originally titled De Uskyldige, has Norwegian dialogue with English subtitles. It is produced by Mer Film, Zentropa Sweden, and Snowglobe. The Innocents will be released theatrically on May 13th from IFC Midnight.

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