Director: Jack Clayton
Stars: Deborah Kerr, Michael Redgrave, Peter Wyngrade, Megs Jenkins, Martin Stephens, Pamela Franklin, Clytie Jessop, Isla Cameron
If you ever find yourself having to defend the horror genre's honor to some hoity-toity blowhards (you know, the ones who always devalue scary movies into a form ghettoized cinema), tell them to watch Jack Clayton's The Innocents. It's the best kind of creepy film, one that works beautifully as a suspenseful tale of the supernatural but is also elegant, prestigious, and impervious to the genre's naysayers. Hell, Martin Scorsese himself once called it one of his all-time favorite horror movies. Co-signs don't get much better than that.
It doesn't hurt that Clayton and co-screenwriters Truman Capote, William Archibald, and John Mortimer had some amazing source material to work with. The Innocents is an adaptation of iconic ghost storyteller Henry James' classic novella The Turn of the Screw, about a nanny (here played by Deborah Kerr) who starts working in a mansion where two little kids are haunted by a pair of apparitions.
Clayton's film emphasizes psychological unease, putting viewers into the nanny's state of mind. Is she going crazy? Or is she legitimately seeing the dead? The answers are terrifying, but also heartbreaking. —MB