Ida is a 9-year old girl who moves to a seemingly normal and boring suburban neighborhood with her parents and her older sister, Anna, who has non-speaking autism. It’s also during the summer holiday, and with enough free time Ida starts exploring the surroundings in the nearby forests and playgrounds. She meets a young boy, Ben, who shows her one of his special tricks: he’s able to sling rocks with his mind. Ida is curious and delighted by seeing his Carrie-esque ability, and after meeting another girl with a special ability, Aisha, who is seeming to bond nicely with Anna on the playground, the foursome start playing together. However, their innocent intentions inevitably end up taking a dark turn.
De Uskyldige (The Innocents) is a Norwegian supernatural thriller from 2021, written and directed by Eskil Vogt. The title of the film, as suggested, challenge the perceived notion that children are inherently innocent. Through their play, one gets to see the thin line between what is simple and childish fun, and how little it can take to tread over the barrier into something outright evil. While horror movies have its own sub-genre for “evil children”, this movie differs in its depiction of them. When most horror movies about evil kids are either about them being demonic/possessed, monsters, or total psychopaths, this movie displays a group of kids where some of them simply have supernatural abilities, while they are still very much normal children in a normal world…and not all of them grow up under good circumstances. For this reason, the movie makes an obvious effort to describe how childish innocence can be completely tainted by awful parenting and a toxic living environment. This is a movie seen from the children’s perspective, and the adults in the movie are merely bystanders. The children are living out their secret lives in the playground, in the forest, in the surrounding areas, just “playing”. Like most children do, without their parents ever really knowing exactly what they’ve been up to, and don’t really care either as long as they’re home in time for dinner or curfew.
The child actors are all doing a controlled and convincing display of their characters, which is important since the movie is heavily carried along due to the performances by the actors. There’s equal amount of childish glee in their faces when they have fun, as well as obvious fear and confusion when things go wrong. It’s never really any outright in-your-face horror (aside from a couple scenes that are quite uncomfortable to watch), but it’s creeping steadily under your skin, where you always have the anticipation of something going wrong. And of course, it really does.
De Uskyldige (The Innocents) is a slow burning thriller which gradually turns up the heat, and the underlying tension builds up in a way that grips you from start to finish.
Writer and director: Eskil Vogt
Original Title: De Uskyldige
Country & year: Norway, 2021
Actors: Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, Sam Ashraf, Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Morten Svartveit, Kadra Yusuf, Lisa Tønne