Release Date – 20th May 2022, Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 57 minutes, Director – Eskil Vogt
A group of children who appear to have telekinetic powers begin to experiment with their abilities, however some find themselves less able to control their minds than others.
Back in 2008 British horror film The Children explored the idea of child minds being corrupted or possessed by an unseen force, causing them to go on a killing spree of their parents in an isolated house where they intended to celebrate the new year. It’s not a film I can claim to be a fan of, however it came to mind a handful of times during writer-director Eskil Vogt’s telekinetic horror drama, The Innocents. We follow a group of children around the age of 9, particularly Rakel Lenora Fløttum’s Ida, as they spend the Norweigian summer in and around a group of closely huddled tower blocks. It appears that Ida is the only child in the area who isn’t able to communicate with others through her mind, or do anything such as move objects. Instead, she uses her older, non-speaking autistic sister Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad) to do this for her.
While initially Ida seems to resent her sister for getting more care and attention from her parents, often leaving her alone, there’s some form of care shown towards her once the idea of her powers comes into play. It also acts as another turning point for Ida as her personality up until this point appears to almost be completely dropped. An early shot sees her stamping on a worm, mostly just to make sure that it is dead after the initial stomp, just because. Another sequence, where she gets to know the angered figure of Ben (Sam Ashraf) shows the pair dropping a cat down a stairwell – again, just because it will hurt and injure the cat. It places in mind the thought that this film might simply be kids being cruel to animals, and eventually each other with no real other force behind the events or actions apart from the fact that they appear to get a kick out of these cruel and malicious actions.
However, once they congregate, alongside fellow tower block resident Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim) the film shifts to focusing on the group experimenting with their powers. What they can do, and how far away they can interact from. It creates a sense of build up and gradually begins to hint at the darker thoughts within some of their minds, particularly Ben who is posed as an antagonistic figure throughout – largely due to his isolating homelife which we discover later in the piece. Much of this is delved into in the third act. Certain elements are introduced, or at least finally expanded, to form a resolution and slight narrative arc within this act. It certainly feels like the segment packed with the most content and detail, but overall causes the run-time to be felt, particularly after the different tones of the stages beforehand.
Certainly, there’s something interesting in the film and the way it explores the darker powers at play and the ways in which the children control, or in Ben’s case doesn’t control, their anger and minds. It helps that things aren’t played out for overall horror. While the early stages lean this way gradually the film swings towards a more dramatic tone with one or two horror elements and perhaps comes out better for having made that decision. If just swinging for horror then there’s a chance things may have been bogged down in hopeful darkness and the kind of actions we see on display at the start.
It allows for the exploration of the powers to be placed front and centre later on. And while this causes the core development of the characters to be left until late in the film once everything has been referenced and looked into there’s still a level of engagement and interest within the drawn-out proceedings. Helped by the fact that the idea of malice for fun is dropped after a short while in the opening stages the film may feel drawn out and hindered by the different focuses and tones in each act, but while as a whole it may be pulled in different directions it’s solid enough, if conflicting, viewing for the time that it’s on and does leave a mild impression on the mind.
Better off for not leaning completely into horror, or cruelty for fun, The Innocents may feel pulled in different directions with the focuses of each act, but there’s enough interesting content in regards to controlling anger and the effects of not doing so that things eventually pass along fairly well, if for a bit too long.