There are films that sometimes just reach out and grab you in the most unexpected manor. “THE INNOCENTS” from Norwegian director Eskil Vogt is just that film. It is wildly creepy, slick horror with a fantasy and drama element thrown in. And it’s a film you will not soon forget. It’s based around four children – two sisters, along with a boy and a girl from the local neighborhood they move to.
The film begins with the two young girls moving into a new apartment complex with their parents during Summer break. As children do, they look for others to befriend and play with and soon the two girls meet other kids in the complex, when something strange starts to happen.
As these young children come together they come to realize they are ‘connected’ in a way that is both evil personified and good personified.
Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum), is an adorable little girl and is the younger of the two sisters. Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad), Ida’s older sister is autistic and mostly non-verbal. At first, Ida seems like a troublemaker, as we see her pinch her sister, as if checking to see if she is for real as Anna doesn’t cry out or seem to notice the pain from it. For Ida, her sister represents competition for time with her parents, as their focus and energy is mostly spent dealing with Anna’s condition, Ida becomes sadly, sort of an afterthought as she doesn’t require the time and effort Anna does. But here in lies the delicacy of the wonderful acting by Fløttum as she is sublime at showing her character’s growth throughout the film. Then there is Ben (Sam Ashraf), a young boy from the complex and the first friend Ida meets. Ben is a myriad of complexities, with a mean streak driving his taste for violence and inflicting pain on others. Ashraf is absolutely haunting in this role. And lastly we have young Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim), the compass if you will, of the group of four and the youngest. She is also somehow the only person who can communicate with Anna at first. Together as a group, these children can be just that, children, or something much much more, and therein lies the chilling effects of this film. The four children play off of each other so phenomenally, which is pivotal, considering they are our main focus throughout the film.
As well, the film is beautifully shot, edited with good sound design, which helps the movie to reach and hold the viewers attention – and then some. The movie is relentless and does not hold back, as certain scenes may be too graphic – but also quite a punch in the gut for some viewers. What the most chilling aspect to watch is the children because as they become aware of their power and it grows, so does the tension within. The Innocents addresses some serious adult themes that we are aware are too grown-up for the small group of children thrown together to deal with, all unaware of the others markings, but it makes the film all the more suspenseful and disturbing.
Vogt mastery of combining drama, fantasy, and horror in a compelling way is completely on point here. The story being told isn’t one where kids are committing violence for no reason, it’s more in depth than that. It’s more about the fantasy world kids often live in and their lack of understanding when it comes to the very real consequences of their actions, should they ever be given powers beyond their years. As well, there is no big reveal ever on how the children obtained the powers, and honestly, the question never arose in my mind on that as it’s really not the purpose of the story. The purpose is what happens once they do have those abilities and how they act on them – more the good vs. evil tone and the fact that these children as actors, pull it all off while making their debut’s – is truly a piece of excellence in itself.
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Review Screening: Courtesy of IFC MIDNIGHT
“THE INNOCENTS” IS NOW IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE AND VOD.