‘The Innocents’ Movie Review: Eskil Vogt Depicts a Distressing Depiction of Childhood

The Innocents takes the childhood summer movie genre and puts a terrifying horror slow-burn spin onto it. Writer/director Eskil Vogt directs it in fascinating ways, including how he pulls excellent performances from his young cast. However, The Innocents certainly isn’t the for the faint of heart.

‘The Innocents’ displays a darker side to childhood

'The Innocents' Rakel Lenora Fløttum as Ida wearing a yellow jacket looking ahead with trees in the background
Rakel Lenora Fløttum as Ida | IFC Midnight

It’s a bright Nordic summer and most of the families in the surrounding areas are out for vacation. However, Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum), Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad), and their parents are new residents in the area. They meet other kid residents, Ben (Sam Ashraf) and Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim), but things are about to take a disturbing turn for the worst.

The children discover that they have mysterious powers that allow them to move things with their minds. They decide to experiment with them when the adults aren’t looking. However, their powers continue to evolve over the course of the summer. Not all the children plan to use their new abilities for good.

Writer/director Eskil Vogt delivers a story of good versus evil

The Innocents instills the nostalgia of childhood summers. They’re filled with a sense of wonderment and excitement, but also moments of frustrating boredom. Ida is particularly annoyed with her parents forcing her to spend time with her sister, Anna, who has a developmental disability. They initially meet new friends in Ben and Aisha.

Vogt’s introduction of Ben and Aisha also comes with a certain amount of mystery, as the mind powers become a major part of the story. Each character has their own individual differences that separate them from other children – some are physical and others are mental. Their powers continue to mature, but they remain children who are very much products of their environments that define how these abilities impact their lives.

At its very core, The Innocents is a story of sisterhood. Ida and Anna are truly put through hell, even though they don’t communicate verbally. There’s an inherent link between the children that the parents fail to see, but it’s at its strongest between the two sisters. Family is a core theme, as the film depicts protecting what is truly important.

‘The Innocents’ is a shocking and distressing depiction of adolescence

'The Innocents' Rakel Lenora Fløttum as Ida and Sam Ashraf as Ben looking serious with Ida looking at Ben, who is looking straight ahead
L-R: Rakel Lenora Fløttum as Ida and Sam Ashraf as Ben | IFC Midnight

The Innocents certainly comes with a trigger warning, as there are a couple of moments of brutal animal violence. This ultimately leads to one of the most despicable characters ever to grace the silver screen. Part of this is a result of the character’s horrific actions, but the rest of it is thanks to the actor themself. Fløttum, Ramstad, Ashraf, and Asheim all turn in impressive work to amp this horror movie up to another level of terror.

Vogt’s story gets off to a slow start in the first act, but it builds into something truly haunting and intense as it moves along. The kids’ mind powers are only a front for something much deeper and more sinister at play. The Innocents is a horror drama that is subtle in its explorations of the greatest fears of adolescence, but heavy-handed in its battle of good versus evil.

The Innocents is sure to haunt you long after the credits are done rolling. Pessi Levanto’s score adds an eerie layer of tension that lingers through Vogt’s stellar visual sense. This is the type of slow-burn horror that isn’t for everybody, but if you can get past the animal violence and some minor pacing issues, it’s a rewarding experience. The Innocents is a singularly shocking, distressing, and stirring film that is difficult to shake.

The Innocents is available in select theaters and for digital rentals on May 13.

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