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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

October 27, 2010 at 3:44 PM

Scary Movie Week: “The Innocents”

One last entry this week, then I’m off on special assignment for a few days (more on that soon, but for now I’ll just say that there’s a movie marathon involved); back on Monday. I wanted to close out Scary Movie Week with my favorite — which is, as it turns out, my colleague and predecessor John Hartl’s favorite scary movie too. (You’ll see it at the top of his list of Top Ten Scary Movies, in the paper and online Sunday.) “The Innocents,” filmed in beautifully chilly black-and-white, is an adaptation of that greatest of all ghost stories, Henry James’ novella “The Turn of the Screw” — and I would recite the book’s glorious final line to you (which includes the lovely phrase “We were alone with the quiet day”), but I’m afraid it’s a bit of a spoiler, so I won’t. Anyway, the movie stars Deborah Kerr as a Victorian-era governess who takes the job of caring for two children in a country house — and soon concludes that the house is haunted and the girl and boy, eerily remote, are possessed. But are the ghosts real, or products of the overwrought young woman’s imagination? The scares in “The Innocents” are no less terrifying for being subtle — and if you live in an old house, like I do, be careful watching this film alone on a dark night. But do watch it; it’s inspired countless sleepless nights and many movies that followed it (most notably, in recent years, Alejandro Amenabar’s “The Others”). Jack Clayton directed; Truman Capote (yes!) and William Archibald wrote the screenplay; and Kerr’s performance will haunt you — in the best, shivery way.

Happy Halloween to all! See you Monday.

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