(1961, Dir. by Jack Clayton.)
Why It's Here:
When it's an old-fashioned spooky story that I want, it's The Innocents that I turn to. A deep and macabre adaptation of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, it's a movie I've seen many times and a movie that I feel I can barely understand. Led by a frantic performance by the great Deborah Kerr and supported by perfect and unique turns by children Pamela Franklin and Martin Stephens and established actors Michael Redgrave and Peter Wyngarde, The Innocents becomes a psychological nightmare that offers some of the most haunting visuals in horror cinema. In fact, the moment that gives me more chills than any other I've seen is the centerpiece of The Innocents' ghastly tale. And that alone makes it an undeniable favorite of mine.
The Moment That Changes Everything:
I alluded to this moment, but there's literally no way I can explain in words just what this moment means to me. It's so incredibly simple - a woman in black appears in a lake - and it's been done 1000 times before and after. But man, there is just something incredible about how Deborah Kerr reacts to this vision. It is the most chilling thing I've ever encountered in a movie. It's perfect.
It Makes a Great Double Feature With:
This seems like a great time to pitch a Peter Wyngarde double feature, and I don't even have to mention Flash Gordon. (But I will anyway, because that's how I roll.) Check out Burn, Witch, Burn, a solid occult thriller written by Richard Matheson & Charles Beaumont, both of whom had their hands all over some of the best Twilight Zone tales ever. It has some of the same melodrama that The Innocents offers, and nearly as impressive black-and-white cinematography. Should make a heck of a double bill.
What It Means To Me:
Cutting out the strange sexual tension in the film - because that's a whole 'nother discussion for a much less scatterbrained writer - The Innocents is a classic ghost story that bucks plenty of trends. And then you add back in that strange sexual tension that I won't touch here and the movie becomes that much more mysterious. The Innocents has the power to keep me completely mystified, and it always leaves me a bit shaken and deep in thought. I might love it more than I should just because it effects me so much, but that sounds to me like the mark of a great horror film.