‘The Innocents’: terrifying children’s games at the Offscreen Film Festival

Eskil Vogt’s horror film, selected at the Brussels Offscreen festival, sends us back a disturbing, and sometimes frightening, representation of childhood.

In the car taking her to her new apartment, Ida pinches her big sister who suffers from autistic disorders. Obtaining no reaction, she pinches her even harder, while watching her parents with her eyes – a way for her to test what is right or wrong, but above all to discover what she can do without consequence. Perfectly aware that this act would be blamed on her if she were caught in the act, she is all the more proud to have gone unnoticed.

His gesture is somewhat innocuous, but it immediately installs an uneasiness in the film. It is easier to think of children as charming innocents than as cruel and sometimes vicious beings. This sadistic nature of the youngest has often been fertile ground for horror cinema. Sometimes depicted as dangerous hordes (“The Rebels of the Year 2000″, “The Village of the Damned”), children also seized the spectators by their obscure facets in films like “That” or “The Curse”, and more recently the Norwegian co-production “The Innocents“. Presented as part of the Offscreen festival, this feature film by filmmaker Eskil Vogt does not, however, need supernatural escalation to transform its toddlers into threats. A few touches of fantasy are enough. The film also saves on its special effects.

The four prepubescent neighbors on which “The Innocents” fixates his cold attention discover in contact with each other gifts of telekinesis and telepathy – fascinating powers which they use for recreational purposes, with all the candor of childhood, and without their knowledge. parents, too absent, preoccupied or distracted to notice them. When a child tells you that he communicates with the neighbor in thought, it seems natural to see it as the product of his imagination. And when various violent acts are committed, it never occurs to any adult that it could be the work of a child. Of those terrifying childish games,’The Innocents” does not put on a great show, preferring to play on purity, distance and slowness to create tension. With some success.

Even though its stylistic effects have become commonplace in contemporary horror cinema, the film still manages to instill angst and dread, especially in its early outbursts of violence. After their shock, the story withers somewhat, struggling to justify its inconsistencies, to make sense of some of the questionable choices of representations, and above all to create real surprise. From the film, we will especially remember a few striking shots, including those that highlight the innocent face of its remarkable lead actress, Rakel Lenora Fløttum. The whole film is played out in his eyes: fear, amusement, guilt, doubt and a fascination with evil.

‘The Innocents’: terrifying children’s games at the Offscreen Film Festival