Tag Archives: classic

The Innocents, 1961 psychological horror

Country: Britain
Director: Jack Clayton
Verdict: 85/100… Excellent, chilling horror classic
Until now, I’d found it rather unlikely that I could be creeped out by a so-called horror movie as old as 1961… Not that I think that pre-70s horror always fails to be frightful; I was scared half to death on more than one occasion by Twilight Zone episodes and the like. But now, at age 42, I am a bona-fide horror movie junkie – I have a real addiction to movies featuring those things that go bump in the night – and as such, sometimes I feel a bit jaded. Well, suffice to say that 1961’s The Innocents retains its creepiness, even today.

The Innocents, 1961 horror: Scariest scene (2:46, YouTube)

Plot summary of The Innocents

In late 19th century England, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) becomes governess of Flora, a young, orphaned girl living in a lonely stately gothic mansion inhabited only by the child, the housekeeper, Ms. Grose (Megs Jenkins), along with a small contingent of servants. Her initial misgivings allayed by the child’s angelic nature, her anxieties are once more aroused when the girl’s brother, Miles – equally captivating, but oddly clever and flirtatious for such a young boy – is sent home from boarding school for serious misbehavior of an unknown sort.

Eerie apparitions and inexplicable behavior on the children’s part cause her to wonder about the house’s history, especially about the fate of the previous governess, Miss Jessel and the former valet, Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde). She fears for the children’s souls and for her own sanity. Miss Giddens comes to believe that the spirits of Jessel and Quint are possessing the children. Convinced that there is an unnatural force at work, perverting the innocence of her charges, she sets out to secure the children’s salvation by wresting them from its power. Though her struggle reaches a resolution of sorts, the real nature and outcome the the clash ultimately remains ambiguous, as intended by the film’s director.

The Innocents, 1961 horror: Scary scenes (9:36, YouTube)

Miles’ poem from The Innocents

This was the poem recited by Miles, the young boy in the psychological horror film The Innocents. It’s beautiful and even more than that, it’s creepy as hell. . . you simply must watch The Innocents to receive the full effect of the poem. (Thanks to YouTube and embedded HTML code, you can watch it here, now – just scroll down a bit…)

At first, the governess is smiling, impressed at the cute little boy reciting this poem; however, by poem’s end, she’s no longer smiling. . .

What shall I sing to my lord from my window?
What shall I sing, for my lord will not stay?
What shall I sing, for my lord will not listen?
Where shall I go, for my lord is away?

Whom shall I love when the moon is arisen?
Gone is my lord, and the grave is his prison.
What shall I say when my lord comes a-calling?
What shall I say when he knocks on my door?

What shall I say when his feet enter softly,
Leaving the marks of his grave on my floor?
Enter my lord, come from your prison.
Come from your grave, for the moon is arisen.

[Whispers]: Welcome, my lord…

The Innocents, 1961: Miles recites creepy poem (1:13, YouTube)

Psychological horror, supernatural horror – or both?

It’s my take that The Innocents is both psychological horror and supernatural horror – that is, I believe the 1961 film does include a legitimate haunting, that the ghosts were there – not just in the mind of the governess. However, I think it is important to note that the film was designed to require the viewer to make his or her own interpretation on this.

Resources: The Innocents, 1961 gothic supernatural horror film

Originally written Monday, March 16, 2009