Signal Horizon

See Beyond

The Innocents Explained- The Most Disturbing Film You May Ever See

The Norwegian horror film The Innocents, from IFC Midnight, is unlike most horror films in that our focus is almost entirely on children. There have been lots of scary movies featuring evil tykes. The Omen, The Bad Seed, Goodnight Mommy, Orphan, and The Ring all come to mind. Where The Innocents differs is the complete normalcy that Eskil Vogt’s movie captures. They look, dress, and act exactly as you expect kids to act, until they don’t. Although the kids develop powers, everything feels natural, as if it could happen between kids in your cul-de-sac or on the playground. There’s a casual cruelty that is introduced early that goes a long way in establishing the tone and setting up some emotional beats that benefit from the character arcs.

The Innocents
Courtesy of IFC Midnight

Ida, her autistic sister Anna, and her parents move to a large apartment complex in The Innocents. Both are beautiful blond girls, but Anna is nonverbal, and Ida frequently does things like pinch her hard or stick glass in her shoe to see how she will respond. It’s shocking to see Ida hurt her sister with so little regard, but that’s hardly the worst thing you will see. Ida spends her days playing with Ben, who lives in the complex with his possibly abusive Mom and is bullied by the bigger children. At first, Ida is intrigued by Ben. However, he torments and eventually kills the neighbor cat in an early scene that is so nasty I almost turned the film off. Ida is repulsed by Ben but also interested in the same way kids are when they blow up ant hills or throw crickets into spider webs.

Shortly after moving in, Ben and another little girl, Aisha, start demonstrating their powers. They play cute telephone games, stretching their powers of telepathy and moving rocks. Aisha and Anna like having someone to talk to, but Ben is a different story. For a curious child with a psychopathic personality, it’s a recipe for disaster. Sweet soulful Aisha befriends Anna and Ida when the girls realize Aisha can telepathically communicate with her. Most of the most tender beats come from their interactions and the subsequent shifts in Anna’s relationship with her family. Aisha uses her powers for good, while Ben, who hasn’t known much beyond viciousness, chooses violence.

Ben’s anger and thirst for power take over as time goes on. He develops his skills allowing him not just to move objects but to control other people. Ben revels in inflicting pain, but he becomes deadly when he feels he is being laughed out. A silly game gets out of hand and turns dangerous when he tries to hurt Aisha and Ida. Anna, who is powerful in her own right, steps in, and a rift forms in the group. Ben doesn’t like being challenged. Here’s everything you need to know about the ending of The Innocents.

The ending of The Innocents

When Ben instigates a series of accidents at home, his mother is left seriously injured and in pain on the kitchen floor. Instead of helping her, he leaves her to die and covers her with napkins. That is the beginning of his end. He has zero impulse control, and he snaps without anything tethering him to love and kindness. He gains control of a man to kill the older boy who had been bullying him and forces Aisha’s mother to kill her while lost in a nightmare of his making. Fearing for their lives, Ida tries to kill Ben but fails.

Anna leaves the apartment while her mother is at the store and confronts Ben across a pond. The two powerhouses square off, with Ben initially gaining control. Ida, who has a broken leg, is slow to follow, but she discovers she has some latent power of her own and shatters her cast, which allows her to get down the stairs and join her sister. Many children on the spectrum have difficulty with human touch, and Anna is no different, but her connection with Aisha allowed her to form bonds she hadn’t been able to before. Now that Ida also has abilities, they were able to link hands and double their power. The two sisters determinedly stared down at Ben and stopped his heart.

Are there other kids with powers?

After the ambulance comes and Ida hugs her mother, Anna stops scribbling on her pad, and her hand pauses just as it did when Aisha melded with her earlier in the film and they drew a shark. The intimation is Anna is communicating with someone else now. Is it Ida or one of the other children from the complex? During the silent battle of wills between Ben and Anna, babies and dogs are affected by something happening around them, and several children watch from their balconies. They seemed to know there was a war going on between Anna and Ben. We also hear the fervent whisper of lonely children at times in the film. Something is happening to many of the children, and it appears several of them are developing powers. Let’s hope they have kind spirits to go with their skills.

Ben, Aisha, and Anna are more powerful when they are together. Anna and Ida can combine their abilities and use them against Ben. Ironically, it was Ben’s isolation and cruelty that made him vulnerable. At the same time, Anna, who had extreme difficulty with personal relationships and communication, overcame her challenges for the greater good. The old adage that we are stronger together rings true here.

Children’s vulnerability and perceived innocence are always a great jumping-off point for horror movies. There’s a reason the creepy kid trope has endured so long. Vogt’s The Innocents takes creepy kids to a whole new level. It shares many of the same bones as Brightburn or the Runaways but with a realism that is hard to watch. That quiet meanness reads more authentic than a kid flying around. This film feels real, and that’s why it is so horrifying. Kids like Ben, who are heartbreakingly neglected and bullied, can lash out in terrible ways. Actions have consequences, even though we don’t always understand that when we are young. Most of us wouldn’t break a kid’s leg because we don’t want to hurt anyone, even if they hurt us. There is a difference between self-defense and revenge or deadly curiosity. Ben never learned that and certainly wasn’t born with any empathy.

The movie is long and punishing. It clocks in at just under two hours, and there is very little gore, but it is quite possibly the most disturbing movie I have ever seen. I gasped, winced, and had to close my eyes several times. The sound design, which is so effective, invaded my senses even when I tried to look the other way. Did I like The Innocents? I’m not sure. The child actors deliver believable and chilling performances, and the film is impactful. It certainly sticks with me, and I know it’s the kind of movie I want to talk about if for no other reason than I think I need to get the poison out. You can stream it everywhere right now but beware. You won’t be able to forget it.