In this adaptation of Henry James's novella, "The Turn of the Screw," an uptight but pretty young woman, takes a job as a Governess for two orphans on a grandiose estate in the English countryside. Flora and Miles seem like thoroughly innocent and angelic children, but soon, whispers of corruption begin to materialize. Miles is expelled from school for reasons he is reluctant to discuss. Miss Giddens learns of the fate of the prior governess, a masochistic young woman named Miss Jessel who was having an affair with a sadistic man named Quint. Soon, Miss Giddens is seeing the ghosts of the arrogantly handsome Quint and the forlorn Miss Jessel everywhere and comes to believe that the children have been possessed. But is she only imagining these horrors? And will she destroy the children in her attempt to save them?
This movie is creepy, claustrophobic and totally paranoid. Filmed in moody black and white with an almost non-existent musical score (other than the chilling song "Willow Waylee" sung in a child's voice over the opening credits and throughout the film) "The Innocents" is a flawless suspense drama. I hesitate to call it a ghost story, as the presence of the ghosts is never confirmed (or denied, for that matter.) Nor is the sanity of the main character. Is the prim English Governess (played with classic elegance by Deborah Kerr) simply an uptight prude having obscene fantasies, or are the two children she's caring for really possessed by the evil and perverted spirits of the former governess and her sadistic lover? There's no gore, no stupid incidental music, no insufferably adorable children and no happy ending. Unspoken horrors, dark secrets and things that "decent people" don't discuss, fill this film with sick shadows and diseased memories. Whether or not the ghosts exist is a moot point by films end. This film is about corruption and perversion. Indeed, there are no "Innocents" in this film...only the facade of innocence, a flimsy backdrop of beauty drawn over the ugly, festering truth. But what IS the truth?