A review of 1961’s ‘The Innocents’

Young orphans Flora (Pamela Franklin) and Miles (Martin Stephens) uncle have no time for them so he sends a new governess Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) to look after them after the mysterious death of their previous governess. After a few encounters with two mysterious entities, the young governess becomes convinced that the grounds are haunted. All in all, it sounds like the start of any other horror film but this film, in particular, was poorly executed and that says a lot considering the quality of contemporary horror films. Watch it for your self and I bet you’ll agree. [The Innocents ] 

The film opens with the beautiful creepy melody which was one of the few positive sound element within the film. The music that plays as Miss Giddens arrives to meet the children was painfully gleeful as was the case for much of the music featured in the film. At times of high tension or when specific sound effects are needed it is played frighteningly loud as it drowns out the natural sound. Sound design subtracts from the film a lot but what is more frustrating is the problematic Miss Giddens. 


“I want to save the children not destroy them.” – Miss Giddens

The conclusion that the house is haunted is accepted by our main character entirely too easy for me. Not a lot is known about Miss Giddens’ beliefs but the fact that she accepts that the property is haunted so quickly leads us to suspect that she is superstitious and already believed in the supernatural. Miss Giddens never once questions her own sanity when she has these “supernatural encounters” or confirms that anyone other than herself has had an encounter as well, yet assumes that children do.  

Not a lot of investigation is done regarding these ghosts on Miss Giddens part either, she does go around asking questions but a lot of her conclusions amount to just guesswork. Miss Giddens pseudo-knowledge of the supernatural raises a lot of questions. What makes her an authority on the supernatural? Why does she believe what she does? And as the film goes on you begin to question her reliability and sanity.  The only thing this wannabe supernatural detective does correctly is identify who the entities where in life (the previous governess Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) and her lover Peter Quint played by Peter Wyngarde.)

It’s important to note that the ghosts never left them any messages or moved things or have done anything truly frightening or malicious and all that they were guilty of was making an appearance every so often. However, with this little pea-sized piece of information, Miss Giddens comes to the conclusion that the ghosts want to possess the children’s bodies. There is nothing that happens that lead to this conclusion, she just pulls it out of her a** like a rabbit out of a hat. 


“Sometimes waking a child is worse than the dream itself.”  – Mrs. Grose

While she might be very irrational and erratic Miss Giddens does mean well. Regardless of good intentions, she ends up doing more harm to the children than good. During her interview with the Uncle, Miss Giddens was told not to mention Miss Jessel or her death around the children and was reminded not to do so several other times by other individuals. It’s a fairly reasonable request considering the fact that the children were very close to Miss Jessel and the nature of her death and circumstances surrounding it aren’t exactly peachy. (The adults had an abusive relationship that the children witnesses and both died in that house and young Miles even discovered one of the bodies!)  

The children had experienced a traumatic experience and had a close encounter with violent death. The trauma and the grief felt by Flora and Miles is not something that their young minds aren’t ready to handle. Regardless of this and the constant reminders not to mention the recently deceased in front of the children she does exactly that. She harasses the children with accusations calling them liars in an attempt to force them to confront these ghosts assuming that they are haunted by spirits when all that haunts them are memories. In the end, it isn’t the spirits who are destroyed but instead the children’s innocence.