Review by Sean Boelman
Written and directed by Eskil Vogt, one of the writers behind last year’s critically-acclaimed The Worst Person in the World, The Innocents couldn’t be more different than that film. A largely dull affair, it feels as if Vogt had an interesting concept and a few strong scenes in mind but struggled to build something compelling up around it.
The movie follows a group of kids with mysterious supernatural powers as their world is enveloped in chaos and they struggle to contain their gifts. The whole “X-Men but a horror movie” concept has been done before — and more successfully — but in trying to take a more restrained approach, Vogt fails to do anything with it that is particularly developed.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the film is that it is glacially paced. The runtime is nearly two hours long, and much of it feels very unnecessary. It’s clear that Vogt is invested in the movie’s atmosphere more than anything else, and he wants it to be a slow burn developing from innocent to sinister, but it takes too long for things to heat up.
There are some mildly interesting socioeconomic undercurrents in the film, but they are largely underdeveloped. In choosing to stick more to the perspective of the child characters, rather than exploring their family units as a whole, the ability of the movie to explore these weighty themes is limited, and it has to instead settle on vague statements.
The dynamic between the central characters of the film is certainly intriguing, even if it doesn’t always work. It’s definitely not the normal, wholesome portrait of childhood friendship that we are used to seeing, and Vogt does a great job of making everything feel slightly off-kilter so that the disturbing things can set in interestingly.
The one aspect of the movie that Vogt did knock out of the park was the casting. All of the young actors that lead the film are shockingly good, especially Rakel Lenora Fløttum and Sam Ashraf. They do an exceptional job of playing the duality of their characters: apparently pure yet having a dark secret bubbling beneath the surface.
Vogt also does an excellent job of making this a daytime horror. Audiences are so used to seeing horror movies that are shrouded in darkness that anytime we see one set predominantly in the light, it feels discomforting. The cinematography by Sturla Brandth Grøvlen is a big part of what makes that work.
The Innocents shows a lot of potential, but for the most part, it’s a pretty big letdown. Despite an intriguing concept, excellent performances, and some solid technical elements, it’s dull and not as creepy as it wants to be.
The Innocents hits theaters and VOD on May 13.