After being sent away by his father as a child, Rodrigo returns to his home as a man to introduce his wife — who’s pregnant with their child — to his father and mother. However Rodrigo’s return home triggers a curse that’s been laid upon the land by the slaves that were wronged by Rodrigo’s father.
Maybe I’m wrong but I think the one the one advantage supernatural movies have in comparison to other horror subgenres is versatility. It doesn’t matter when or where a movie is taking place, when it comes to ghosts and the supernatural, they can be applicable to any story and it will never feel out of place. And when I read the plot synopsis for “The Innocents”, the idea of a film taking place in the 19th century that revolved around voodoo and ghosts sounded great. Too bad it ended with mixed results.
In general, I did not like “The Innocents”. It was a movie that I thought fell flat with what it was trying to accomplish, yet at the same time, I’d still say it was a good movie. “The Innocents” is one of those tough movies where I feel as though I need to have two opinions: mine and one that is objective. On the objective side, I will start off with the good and say that “The Innocents” is a very well made movie. It’s probably one of the most polished movies I’ve watched in some time — the attention in the detail in the costume and art department is commendable. And in general, “The Innocents” is a great looking movie.
As a period film, “The Innocents” is definitely worthy of praise. Again, there’s an incredible amount of work in the details, such as the clothing and set pieces. It’s also because of the film’s unflinching portrayal of the slave era. Family turmoil on a plantation is the central point of “The Innocents” but how it depicts the life of the slaves at this plantation was exceptional. Brunetti doesn’t pull any punches as we witness slaves being whipped, tortured, mutilated, and raped. Certainly it doesn’t sound like much, and yes, other movies have unapologetically shown such things, but it’s something that could have easily been glossed over for such a movie with “The Innocents”. It not only helped to establish the vileness of the antagonist, but helped to ground an otherwise fantastical movie and to push the drama aspect.
The film’s focus on the drama and the period is where it lost me as an audience member because the supernatural aspect seemed to fall by the wayside. There is a slow boil tension to “The Innocents” but it’s derived more from the familial relationship as a son, who’s now an adult, has to come face-to-face with his father’s unyielding cruelty and what it means in regards to his own family that he’s trying to create. The actual supernatural subplot — brought on by the slaves who seek revenge — is something that only pops up to sort of remind the audience that it’s this element that’s there. It never feels as this looming threat. It never feels like anything. So when the big climax comes to ahead, the tension that was there sort of fizzles out without doing anything gratifying — let alone justifying the existence of the supernatural element in the movie.
“The Innocents” is a good movie, and dare I say, a great period film. What it’s not is a good supernatural horror movie. The team behind the film did a reasonable job of incorporating a supernatural concept into a 18th century-set drama — at no point did these two elements clash and cause one or the other to feel out of place within the context of the story. The problem is that the supernatural aspect was not used to its full potential. Instead it’s this minor subplot that comes across as something that’s more vital to the atmosphere than it actually is, especially with the climax of the movie. However, that’s not to say “The Innocents” is a bad movie. I was left disappointed but at no point did I feel my time was wasted because it handles everything else so well.