The Innocents (2021) Movie Review - Unsettling Nordic Horror

Horror, Thriller, Supernatural | 117 Min
The Innocents (2021) Review
  • Director: Eskil Vogt
  • Actors: Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, Sam Ashraf, Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim
  • Writers: Eskil Vogt
  • Producers: Maria Ekerhovd
  • Country: Norway
  • Language: Norwegian
  • Parental: Violence, Injury Detail, Violence Against Animals, Violence Against Children, Particularly Brutal And Graphic Animal Torture Scene, Language
  • Horror, Thriller, Supernatural | 117 Min

During the bright Nordic summer a group of children reveal their dark and mysterious powers when the adults aren't looking. In this original and gripping supernatural thriller playtime takes a dangerous turn.

We have one week left of our K-O-Ween 31 Days of Halloween feature and today we are heading to Norway with Eskil Vogt’s The Innocents. Obviously this is a Norwegian movie so expect to watch a subtitled version. It may receive a dub at some point but I am unsure of when.

I’m a big fan of Scandinavian horror. There seems to be a unique style to them and the incredible scenery makes for perfect horror environments. I was torn between a few different Norwegian movies to include in this list. I decided to go with The Innocents as a few of the others are a little more divisive. The Innocents is a supernatural horror, thriller that is somewhat reminiscent of movies like Chronicle and Carrie. Without further ado, let’s take a look.

Scary Kids Scaring Kids

The Innocents follows the story of Ida, a young girl played by Rakel Lenora Fløttum, and her autistic sister Anna, played by Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, as they move to a new apartment with their parents. Anna is non-communicative and seemingly responds only to certain stimuli. She engages in repetitive actions and appears to be somewhat unaware of her surroundings. After the sisters meet a young boy called Ben (Sam Ashraf), they begin to develop a friendship. Little realising that Ben lives a troubled homelife. 

The Innocents (2021) Review

Aisha is an incredibly likeable character that you will definitely root for!

Against a backdrop of poverty and complicated living situations. The friends grow closer, eventually realising that they share some type of supernatural abilities. What starts as harmless and mischievous play to kill the time. Quickly takes a darker turn and the emergence of a young, empathetic, girl called Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim) unveils a twisted side to the children.

Chronicle With Preteens

The theme of gifted kids going rogue is pretty common in horror. Everyone remembers Chronicle, right? A group of friends develop superpowers. One of them has a terrible home life and starts vengefully tearing shit up. It’s a tale as old as time. Brightburn is another one that has tackled this plot but with a slightly different spin and it is impossible not to mention Carrie. The Innocents aims to mix things up a little by bringing the story to a European location and with a cast of preteens.

The Innocents (2021) Review

The Innocents does a fantastic job of highlighting the difficulties of some people’s childhoods

Although it is something that has most definitely been done before, The Innocents is one of the better examples. It is bleak, horribly cruel, intensely disturbing and incredibly well acted. Whereas Chronicle felt like a supervillain origin story, The Innocents feels like a realistic portrayal of the consequences of abuse and neglect on young children. Even the kind of neglect that simply comes from lack of attention.

The children have a variety of, what can only be described as, super powers that gradually become stronger. Aisha is empathetic and can hear the thoughts of the other characters, particularly Anna, and Ben can manipulate people and objects. Ida is yet to find her power. Anna, however, has what appears to be an incredible ability that only seems to come out when Aisha is used as something of a conduit. The powers here are used, almost, as metaphors for the actions carried out by childhood victims of abuse. The children with positive home lives are empathetic and have positive powers. The neglected children have harmful powers and are cruel. It’s fascinating stuff.

Animal Lovers – An Important Warning

I feel as though it is always important to point out scenes that I think may upset certain people. The Innocents features one of the most graphic and realistic depictions of violence against an animal I have ever seen. I am happy to confirm, despite this, that no animals were harmed during the making of the movie. Still, this is one of the most brutal depictions of animal cruelty in modern horror so be warned.

The Innocents (2021) Review

A fantastic performance by Alva Ramstad sheds light on the struggles of non-communicative neuro-divergent people and their parents

If you are a cat lover, this is going to upset you, I guarantee it. I am more of a hedgehog lover than a cat lover but, above all else, I am an animal lover. This scene is both unnecessary and likely to make some people feel sick. If you are a lover of animals and are upset by seeing them hurt in movies, you should most definitely skip The Innocents. You can skip these scenes if you want to watch the movie: when you get to 23:30 skip to 26:40. Ida returns to the basement later on to find Ben has been interfering with the dead cat’s body. If you wish to skip this then when you get to 28:40 skip to 30:50.

I wish horror would get some new ideas. Updating this review in July 2024, I am still constantly adding a tag for Animal Violence to practically every horror movie I review. It is beyond worn out. I wish directors would try something else. It is extremely old and the competition to outdo each other in presentations of horrifying cruelty is nauseating.

Brutal, Bleak, and Somewhat Depressing

The Innocents seems to give a knowing nod to movies like Let The Right One In. Aside from the similar locations of an apartment tower block, the film feels, at times, hopeless and bleak in much the same way. Every character presented to the viewer has depth and seems to be somewhat troubled. The children have varying issues and the homelives of all of them are, at the very least, complicated. The thing that makes The Innocents so much more impactful with this, however, is just how realistic it is.

The movie pulls absolutely no punches. The cruelty and brutality of the childhoods that so many people actually experience is recreated for everyone to see. I have seen people complaining that the portrayal of the children, and their lives, is unrealistic. Some people said that children would never be this cruel in real life. That displays such a naïve lack of understanding of the realities of life for abused children. The cycle of abuse, and violence, leads children to perform incredible acts of cruelty towards animals, siblings, and other children. This is fact! I appreciate that some people’s lives are sheltered enough to not realise this but it is the truth.

The Innocents does not beat around the bush at all. It presents the result of abuse with frightening realism and feels incredibly apt for a time when school shootings and violence between children is becoming the norm. There is a bleakness to the film that stays throughout and peaks in one particularly crushing moment later on. For the most part, there is very little to smile about here and the movie should be commended for its commitment to giving us a realistic story, despite the supernatural elements.

Incredible Acting and Cinematography

The child cast of The Innocents are absolutely incredible. To think these actors are playing nuanced character with significant complexity and depth while being so young is incredibly impressive. Rakel Lenora Fløttum as Ida and Sam Ashraf as Ben are both fantastic. They both present their characters with believability and the range of emotions they display is very impressive. Mina Asheim as Aisha is simply brilliant. Rarely do you see such an honestly likeable character in a horror movie. She manages to elicit genuine care from the audience and you will absolutely buy into her performance 100%.

It is, however, Alva Ramstad as Anna that deserves special mention. Never in a movie have I seen such a convincing and accurate portrayal of a non-communicative neuro-divergent person. I have a close relative with autism and have visited autistic schools frequently. Alva’s portrayal of low functioning autism was both incredibly accurate and very sympathetic. It is a brilliant insight into the struggles of a family with an autistic child and she deserve all the praise in the world for the work she must have put into creating such a sympathetic character. I hope she enjoys an incredible career because, if this performance is any indication, she has buckets of talent.

The Innocents (2021) Review

The last 30 minutes are powerful, sad, and compelling

Cinematography is beautiful. The environment is gloomy and a bit depressing but that only adds to the mood of the movie. There is a dreamy haze to many scenes and some of the shots are really inspired. I particularly enjoyed some of the later scenes that showed us what some of the characters see when exposed to a certain character’s psychic powers. These scenes are genuinely scary though I believe they could have been expanded on a bit more.

Should You Watch The Innocents?

This is a tough movie to recommend because it is so brutally bleak. It’s also not all that scary and a bit too long. But horror fans who enjoy realism and aren’t put off by realistic portrayals of child abuse and the results of it should definitely watch The Innocents. It is atmospheric, gorgeously filmed, marvellously acted and really quite powerful as a form of anti-entertainment. Just go in with your expectations set.

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