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October 25, 2012

The Mike's Top 50 Horror Movies Countdown: #5 - The Innocents

Previously on the Countdown: Number 50 - Happy Birthday to Me  Number 49 - Prince of Darkness  Number 48 - House on Haunted Hill  Number 47 - The Monster Squad  Number 46 - Hellraiser  Number 45 - The Fog  Number 44 - Creature From the Black Lagoon  Number 43 - Zombie  Number 42 - Tales from the Crypt  Number 41 - Bubba Ho-Tep  Number 40 - Phantom of the Paradise  Number 39 - Dog Soldiers Number 38 - Pontypool  Number 37 - Dark Water  Number 36 - Army of Darkness Number 35 - The Legend of Hell House  Number 34 - Poltergeist  Number 33 - The Abominable Dr. Phibes  Number 32 - The Phantom of the Opera  Number 31 - The House of the Devil   Number 30 - Evil Dead II  Number 29 - Dead of Night  Number 28 - Carnival of Souls  Number 27 - Nosferatu  Number 26 - Candyman  Number 25 - The Texas Chain Saw Massacre  Number 24 - Horror of Dracula  Number 23 - The Wicker Man  Number 22 - Suspiria  Number 21 - The Omen  Number 20 - Spider Baby or, The Maddest Story Ever Told  Number 19 - Rosemary's Baby  Number 18 - The Devil Rides Out  Number 17 - The Blob  Number 16 - Gremlins  Number 15 - Targets  Number 14 - Fright Night   Number 13 - Frankenstein  Number 12 - Alien  Number 11 - The Shining  Number 10 - An American Werewolf in London  Number 9 - The Thing  Number 8 - Dawn of the Dead  Number 7 - The Evil Dead  Number 6 - Night of the Living Dead
The Innocents
(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.

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