Insomniac Theatre: “The Innocents”

24 Oct

UGH.  I was going to do this last night.  Honest-to-God, I was planning on studiously avoiding the last debate and Game 7 of the NLCS because I a) didn’t care about the former and b) wasn’t totally emotionally invested in the latter.  What ended up happening was finding myself flipping back and forth between Game 7 and the debate, getting pissed off at both candidates for entirely different reasons (though the bayonet crack was funny — come on, guys, lighten up, he wasn’t making fun of the Navy, he was making fun of the antiquated notion of what our Navy looks like!  Jesus!), and then Jeremy the IV wouldn’t let me not watch either The Daily Show or Conan, so Daily Show it was, and then I was able to tune into the very end of Game 7 where the GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!  THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! And it was awesome, because even though I’m a New Englander, my loyalties can be bought easily.  Especially when the Red Sox suck giant donkey dicks and also, my friend Emily lives in San Francisco, so there.

ANYWAY.  By the time I was ready to actually sit and watch The Innocents, it was 12:30, I had written about five paragraphs bitching about the debate and why I don’t really like horror movies, and then I realized I wasn’t truly in the mood to watch a black-and-white psychological thriller, so I put in Season 1 of Archer and kept cross-stitching Babou.

Holy shit!  You guys — look at his little spots! 

(Seriously, everyone’s getting home-made presents this year.  I just realized: I’m po’.  So if you have a favorite quote or particularly geeky phrase that you want to see cross-stitched into a sampler [a la “God bless this swirling vortex of entropy”], shoot me a personal message and it will be yours.  At some point in the future.  Can’t guarantee that you’ll get it for Real Christmas.  We may need to institute Alaina’s Christmas Present Day on, like April 5.  Because that’s how I roll.)

Sweet — IFC is showing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with Martin Freeman!  That was the movie I would always put in when I had to pull an all-nighter back in college.  Well, that and Prisoner of Azkaban.  I could put those on and not need to pay attention to every moment.  Pure background noise.  I swear, those movies got me through Costuming and Makeup Production. 

So back to The Innocents:

The imdb. describes the movie thusly:

A young governess (Deborah Kerr) for two children becomes convinced that the house and grounds are haunted.

Here’s why I’m watching The Innocents: it’s a classic in the psychological/supernatural horror genre, I’ve never seen it, and it’s slightly more than a week until Halloween.  Also on my DVR list is the Vincent Price original, House on Haunted Hill.  I am both interested and wary, on both counts.

See, I may have alluded to it when I watched Death of a Ghost Hunter*, but looking back at that entry, I think I was more vague than I wanted to be.  As much as I enjoyed The Grudge and Final Destination II, they are not movies that I will rewatch on a regular basis.  Actually, now that I think about it, I know I own both of those movies on DVD — oh wait, no; I gave both to the Roommate when I moved out, because I’ve never rewatched them.  Oh, I bought them.  Because I am an idiot who apparently has no real level of responsibility when it comes to money.  And the reason I enjoyed them was because they took themselves so fucking seriously that they completely bypassed ‘scary’ and ended up at ‘stupid.’  If you recall, I was the idiot yelling at Buffy to just kill the fucking demon, why can’t she just pick up her boyfriend, she has superhuman strength, why is she going upstairs?  Doesn’t she know by now you NEVER GO UPSTAIRS?  And then there was the slow clap when that dude in Final Destination II got tri-sected by a barbed wire fence.  That was awesome.

I mean, those events are too ludicrous to believe.  Yeah, sure, there may be a certain amount of plausibility, but, come on; car accident causes a van to run into a tree, the driver lights a cigarette while she waits for the jaws of life, the air bag delays but when it finally does deploy, the driver’s head rams right into the conveniently-placed tree branch, kills her, causes her to drop her cigarette, which lights the gas that is leaking out of the van, which leads right to a tank of methane or propane or something on this farm or wherever, and when that blows up, it blows up a section of fence which happens to slice right through one of the other passengers who had survived up until that moment.  That is a Rube Goldberg machine of epic proportions.

[SIDEBAR: Dear God, I adore Sam Rockwell.  In all of his incarnations.  Zaphod Beeblebrox, Hammer of HammerCorp, everything else I’ve ever seen him in … if he’s not careful, he could end up on my list of Pretend Boyfriends.]

I recognize that the point of horror movies is to scare ourselves.  It takes something that could potentially, actually happen — either through a weird sort of crazy, random happenstance, or through supernatural events — and shows us how horrible it could end up.  When horror is done well — as I assume The Innocents will do — it freaks us the fuck out.  And I don’t know about y’all, but that is not a feeling I truly enjoy feeling.

And here’s where I get back to Death of a Ghost Hunter.  That is a perfect example of a movie that takes itself so fucking seriously that it loops around to being not just stupid, but awful.  However — and Sarah?  I would have said this earlier, but Twitter wouldn’t give me more characters — given the right parameters, I’d watch Ghost Hunter again.  Those parameters include being with friends who either have or have not seen it yet (a game of shared experiences, or a game of Terrify the Ghost Hunter Noob, whichever, either is hilarious), and a lot of booze.  But I would never watch Hobo With a Shotgun.  The violence was really, too terrible for me (although I’m still impressed with the use of hockey skate as murder weapon), no redemption for any characters, and I’m sorry, it was being crude just to be shocking.  I can’t give any empathy to envelope-pushing for no real reason.

Sorry, Sarah – I can’t do it.

Okay, so, how does that loop into The Innocents?  Well, while I’ve never seen the movie before, I may have read that in the end, the governess goes a little crazy and murderous?  And ghosts or not, that can be a very scary thing.  Needless to say, I will be watching this with all the lights on.  Because I really don’t want to get freaked.  I may need to institute a rule like my acquaintance back in college — whenever her boyfriend made her watch either a violent movie or a scary movie (I can’t remember witch), she had to watch Election before going to bed.  I can probably do the same thing with The Avengers.  Or maybe something shorter; it is 1 a.m. after all.

All right — let’s do this.  At least the movie’s only an hour, forty minutes long.


The film begins with a black screen and then a sunrise over the sound of birds singing, and a woman praying.  Or something.  Oh, that’s where I read this!  The movie is based on Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, which is a Book I’ve Never Read.  I think I was looking at books that I know I should read at some point in my life, and the synopsis of Turn of the Screw said that there were allusions to it in The Innocents

Deborah Kerr — is it “Carr” or is it “Curr?” — thinks while she prays that all she wants to do is save the children, because what they need more than anything is someone to love them.  Oh, SHIT, NOT THE CHILDREN!

Michael Redgrave plays the uncle of the children Deborah Kerr is going to be the governess for.  His voice sounds familiar.  Hmm… well, apparently I’ve never seen him in anything else.  The children live on another estate, and the Uncle wants nothing to do with them.  Uh, yikes.  Deborah Kerr will be their second governess, and the girl, Flora, was very fond of Mrs. Jessel.  Apparently the Uncle had settled everything, and then the governess “had to go and die.”  Uh, yikes.  It’s Deborah Kerr’s first position, and the Uncle tells her at least three times that, whatever happens, she has to run the show without involving him.  Deborah Kerr promises to try.

I’m ninety percent sure that this movie was filmed after The King and I.  So I could make some jokes in here about the King of Siam, but to be honest, I’ve never seen that movie either, so I’m just going to shut up about it.

Deborah Kerr gets out of the carriage (the film takes place most likely in the 1860s or 1870s, judging by the costumes) and walks the rest of the way to the estate.  It’s a very pretty estate, I’ll give the Creepy Uncle that. 

ALTHOUGH NOT AS CREEPY AS FLORA!  Deborah Kerr hears someone calling “Flora,” and then all of a sudden Flora shows up, the very epitome of “young girl about to be haunted, to the extent that she looks like one of the twins from The Shining.”  Deborah Kerr introduces herself, and Flora says she knows, and does she like reptiles.  Deborah Kerr says wisely that it depends, and asks why Flora asked the question.  “Why, I happen to have one in my pocket.”  WHAT REPTILE FITS IN POCKETS, LITTLE GIRL?  I SWEAR TO GOD IF THERE ARE MOTHERFUCKING SNAKES IN THIS MOTHERFUCKING HORROR MOVIE, I’LL — oh, it’s a turtle.  *phew*  Aww, and its name is Rupert?!  Reference to both Giles and Stewie’s bear!  Okay, I’ll un-pause you now, movie.

Flora introduces Deborah Kerr to the Cook or whatever it is, and the Cook is really overly happy to meet the new Governess.  Deborah Kerr is overwhelmed by the largeness of the estate.

Anyway.  The kid has her bath and then she and Deborah Kerr go to sleep — apparently it’s kosher for the governess to sleep in the same room as the kid.  As Flora’s saying her prayers, she hears a squawk of what could be a hurt animal.  Apparently, Mrs. Groce (the aforementioned housekeeper or cook or whatever) has told Flora to ignore when she hears things like that.  Flora tells Deborah Kerr to ignore it, but apparently compassion is her weakness, and she refuses to ignore it.  Deborah Kerr sleeps fitfully while Flora hums.

The next day, she receives a letter from Flora’s brother’s school, and he’s been expelled for being an injury to other students.  Flora had been saying that Miles was coming home, though both Deborah Kerr and Mrs. Groce said that he wouldn’t be home until holiday.  When Deborah Kerr asks Flora how she knew, she just says, “Oh look, a lucky spider, and it’s eating a butterfly.”  WHAT THE FUCK, FLORA?!

Miles comes home on the train and the two children run off to play together.  That night, Deborah Kerr is doing the rounds before going to bed, and when she listens at the door to see if he’s sleeping, he calls her in.  Miles gives me the impression that, when he grows up, he’s going to be a thankless rake.  He’s practically attempting to seduce Deborah Kerr.  He’s all of eleven!  Anyway, Deborah Kerr tries to get him to talk about why he was expelled, but he keeps his trap shut.  The wind blows the candle out, and Miles says, in what I assume is his idea of Seductive!Voice, “It was only the wind, my dear.”  DUDE.  YOU’RE FUCKING ELEVEN.

The next morning, Deborah Kerr is cutting roses in the garden.  There’s lots of ambient noise — birds chirping, pigeons and doves cooing, and Flora humming her song again.  Deborah pushes some roses out of the way and finds a hidden statue, of a cherub holding the … cut-off hands of someone?  And there’s a fucking cockroach coming out of its mouth?!  EEEEEWWWWW….. And while Deborah notices that, all ambient noise stops.  ALL OF IT.  It’s quiet.  Too quiet.  Not in the good way.  Deborah looks up and sees a man standing on one of the towers.  She crosses through the garden and goes into the tower, at which point the pleasant sounds of birds chirping and cooing fade into the disgusting noise of flies buzzing.  She climbs the tower to find Miles sitting and playing with pigeons.  THOSE ARE THE DIRTIEST BIRDS, MILES.  AND ONE OF THEM IS SITTING ON YOUR HEAD.  DUDE.  Deborah Kerr wants to know where the man is, but Miles tells her she probably just saw him.  He says at one point, “Oh, dear.  I hope you don’t need spectacles; you’re too pretty for them.”  SERIOUSLY, MILES, YOU’RE ELEVEN.

As Deborah Kerr is trying to find out of there are any other people living on the grounds, Flora comes running up and tells her that Miles is ‘running expedition.’  Which turns out to mean riding his pony very very fast, and all I can think of is Bonnie Blue from Gone With the Wind.  Unfortunately, the little imp doesn’t break his neck.  Damn.

The kids ask Deborah Kerr how big her house was growing up.  Miles the Minx asks if the house was big enough to keep secrets.  Apparently not, because her father was a Father, always writing sermons.  But when he’d go out, the family would play Hide and Seek.  That causes the children to want to play Hide and Seek, which is NEVER A GOOD IDEA IN A CREEPY OLD HOUSE.  She ends up in an attic with ANOTHER CREEPY BOBBLEHEAD, WHAT THE FUCK, OLD MOVIES.  She goes over to stop its bobble, but then she runs into the table and starts up a music box.  The song it plays is the same song Flora keeps humming, and there is a cracked picture of a man in the box as well.

And then Miles, the Creepy Fucker, jumps out and frightens poor Deborah Kerr.  He puts his arms around her neck in what I assume is a half-Nelson-type hold, but Deborah at first mistakes it for a hug.  When it turns out to be not that and more of a stronghold, she asks him to stop holding her because he’s hurting her.  He refuses.  MILES, WHAT THE FUCK.  And then Flora shows up and then Miles lets Deborah go, and also, Flora is happy because Deborah found her missing music box.  It’s also Deborah’s turn to hide.

She goes back to the living room and hides behind one of the draperies.  As she’s standing there, she sees a man stalking up to the window.  She tries to scream, but either she’s too scared, or she doesn’t want the kids to find her hiding space.  The man practically puts his nose on the window, then moves back into the dark in the slowest backwards walk ever.  Deborah understandably freaks out, as she recognizes the man as the man from the tower.  When Mrs. Groce shows up, Deborah pretty much accuses the housekeeper of hiding a handsome yet scary man on the grounds.  Then she realizes that not only is he the Man From the Tower, but also the Man From the Music Box Picture.  She’s on her way to the attic to find the picture when Mrs. Groce tells her that the man she thinks she’s seeing is dead.  DUH AND/OR HELLO.

A couple of days later, it’s pouring out and the kids are being little nightmares in the classroom.  A series of stupid little things (squeaky pencil, Miles being a fucktard) cause Flora to cry.  Deborah Kerr decides that instead of learning, they’ll pretend that it’s Flora’s birthday.  The children want to have a costume party, so they go off running to surprise Deborah.  Deborah gets all worried about the kids running off.  Mrs. Groce runs interference, telling Deborah that there was no man, and the dead man was the Uncle’s valet.  He died by slipping on the front stairs while drunk in a snowstorm.  Apparently Miles was the one who found him, which is tragic in its own way because Miles followed after the valet — name of Quint, and I know there’s a Jaws joke in there somewhere, but remember, that’s also on the List — like a little lost puppy.  Worshipped him, which, even if Quint hadn’t cracked his head open like a snow margarita, would have ended poorly.

The kids come down the staircase all wrapped in sheets and crowns, looking like a regular little royal party.  Miles recites a poem about what could he do with his Lord away, and I have no idea if he’s referring to Jesus, Quint, or something else.  The atmosphere is very Macbeth-ish.  Deborah Kerr wants to know more about the mysterious Quint, but then she learns that apparently, Quint and the first Governess may have been having an affair or something.  Mrs. Groce tells her to not worry about it, because the whole thing’s over and done with.  Deborah wonders, is it really?

Deborah Kerr is sitting with the children in the garden, and she becomes convinced that she saw another ghost, this one of the former governess.  That night, Deborah tells the housekeeper her fears, and the housekeeper finally believes that Deborah really is seeing these things.  Deborah does the classic “What do the ghosts want?,” hoping — like Giles and Buffy did fifty years later in “I Only Have Eyes For You” — that if they can figure it out, they can exorcise the area of the ghosts.  Apparently, Governess #1 and Quint were sex fiends, and they didn’t care who saw them.  Uh, yikes.  In addition, Quint was abusive to the Governess, but she liked it.  When Quint died, she became uber-depressed, and she died of a broken heart.

Deborah Kerr has a creepy nightmare that night, full of overlain shots of the kids being creepy, dancing with the ghosts of the dead, and the kids keep whispering about keeping secrets.  Deborah Kerr believes that the children might be possessed by the dead Quint and dead governess.  Deborah wants to convince Creepy Uncle that his niece and nephew are possessed, but she wants to make sure she knows all the details.  Mrs. Groce finally tells her that the First Governess drowned herself.

Deborah wants to go to London, but on the day of her journey, she finds the ghost of the First Governess in the schoolroom, crying.  Like, there are actual wet tears on the chalkboard of sums.  So she decides to not go to London, and to keep the children within her sight at all times.  But then later that night, she goes on rounds throughout the house with her candelabra, and she hears the voices of the First Governess and Quint, with the Governess saying “The children are watching,” and Quint laughing maniacally.  When she returns to the bedroom she shares with Flora, Flora’s kneeling at the window, watching Miles walk around in the garden.  Deborah takes up her candelabra again and runs down to the garden to figure out what Miles is doing out so late.

Miles had decided to run outside with his bare feet because he thought he was being boring.  OH MY GOD.  MILES.  THERE ARE GHOSTS ABOUT.  As she’s tucking Miles in bed, she finds a … a dead pigeon, with a broken neck, UNDER MILES’S PILLOW.  MILES, WHAT THE FUCK.  And THEN, he asks Deborah Kerr to kiss him goodnight, and when she hesitates, he kisses her smack on the lips.  And not an “Eleven-Year-Old” kiss – an “I’m Growing Up” kiss.  MILES, WHAT THE FUCK

The next day, Flora goes missing.  Deborah Kerr believes that she’ll be at the lake where the First Governess killed herself.  Sure enough, Flora and her music box are dancing in the gazebo at the edge of the lake.  Well, Flora’s dancing to the music from the music box.  The music box can’t dance.  Deborah Kerr sneaks up on her and then gently calls her name, in an attempt to not scare the poor girl.  But as Deborah asks her who gave her the music box, and if she can see the spectre of Miss Jessel, the First Governess, because she can, she’s right over there, don’t you see her, Flora?  Don’t you?  Anyway, Flora starts to bawl, just as Mrs. Groce comes up and wants to know what’s going on.  And —

JESUS CHRIST, WEEKLY EMERGENCY ALERT TEST!  BE MORE INAPPROPRIATE!  Good God almighty, I jumped!  *deep breaths* Okay, I’m awake now. 

Also, you know you’ve been up too long when you’re awake for the weekly test of the Emergency Broadcast System.  Fuck.

Oh look, I only have twenty more minutes.  Flora gets scared of Deborah Kerr and demands to never see her again.  Well, in her defense, Deborah, you are becoming kind of a creeper.

That night, Flora is screaming to raise the dead — uh, pun hopefully not intended? — but Deborah is respecting the girl’s wishes to never see her again.  So instead, Flora just screams all night long.  Apparently, she’s also cursing up a storm, but thanks, Hayes Code!  We only hear screaming, no swear words.  Deborah tells Mrs. Groce to take Flora to their Uncle while she works on getting Miles to talk.  Clearly, Mrs. Groce believes Deborah Kerr’s gone ’round the bend, but is in no position to try and convince her otherwise.

Mrs. Groce says goodbye to Deborah Kerr and takes Flora to her uncle’s in London.  Young Master Miles has gone outside to play, so Deborah Kerr waits for him to return.  It’s not until teatime that he decides to deign Deborah Kerr with his presence.  He’s very happy that he’s got Deborah Kerr alone.  He tries to convince Deborah Kerr that he’s happy and Flora’s happy and everyone’s so very, very happy together, but then he runs away, undercutting his entire argument.

She tells Miles that her father — the vicar, remember? — told her to help people, even if they don’t want help.  That’s why she’s kept Miles in here alone.  She asks again what happened at school, and he tries to tell her it’s because he’s different, but then she says that he’s no different from any other boy.  Uh, Deborah?  HAVE YOU BEEN WATCHING THIS MOVIE?!

Finally, Miles admits that he hears voices and that he’d talk in his sleep, frightening the other boys at school.  He then taunts Deborah Kerr, and she sees Quint in the window behind Miles.  He goes a little crazy — possibly possessed — and calls Deborah a damned dirty hussy.  Hey, now.  He runs out of the conservatory, throwing Flora’s pet turtle Rupert out the window.  NOT RUPERT!

He runs into the garden, convinced that Deborah’s gone mad.  She sees Quint replace one of the statues in the garden, and when Miles asks to see him, the devil, he spins around, has a seizure or something, then passes out.  As Deborah Kerr picks him up, strokes his hair, and tells him that she has him now and that Quint’s gone. 

… And then she realizes that …



In conclusion, the movie was not as ‘scary’ as I thought it was going to be.  Hurray!  It was still fucked up, and I can’t imagine how everyone must have reacted to the story back when it was released. 

I tell you what, though — I think the next movie I watch is going to be of the Netflix Roulette variety.  I need to be making fun of more things.

*PS: Upcoming H2 Productions:
Ghost of a Death Hunter
Death of a Goat Hunter
And the last in the amazing trilogy: Hunt of a Goat Ghost.

On behalf of the team at H2 Productions: You’re welcome, world.

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Posted by on October 24, 2012 in Insomniac Theatre


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