A telekinetic child (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad) and her little sister (Rakel Lenora Fløttum) move house in this Scandinavian chiller they should have called Carrie and Alexander.
The Innocents has less to do with its 1961 namesake (the definitive The Turn of the Screw adaptation) and more Stephen King, essentially Scand By Me in its tale of unattended kids left to wreak havoc around their Norwegian apartment building. There are also shades of John Carpenter in its pint-sized paranoia, and Shivers of David Cronenberg viewing disability as human evolution (in a tower-block setting).
This is a more brutal (albeit less painful) version of X-Men: The New Mutants, inflicting violence against children and animals – including the most unfortunate cat in a Scandi thriller since The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. More Goodnight Mommy than Let the Right One In, its horror seems almost dispassionate before undergoing a childlike emotional awakening. Using the kids’ perspective, we are confronted with the alarming amorality and dawning empathy of the characters themselves.
The diverse youngsters are brilliantly acted (Sam Ashraf and Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim play the other two) and chillingly believable, making it easy to accept the story’s supernatural elements. We are on thematically similar ground to Hatching but instead of the Finnish fantasy’s sense of fun, Eskil Vogt directs with a slow-burning realism that marries We Need to Talk About Kevin and Rear Window.
Through the eyes of the apparently powerless protagonist, we witness the not-so impotent rage of children (particularly boys), the obliviousness of parents and the open wound between the two; a division photographically marked by the adults’ sunny views of their offspring playing outside, and the children’s chills beneath the sun-kissed asphalt surface. Unnerving and uncompromising, these unsettling under-12s are destined for a Hollywood remake that’s Norway near as good.