Children can be cruel. Especially so when they think they won’t be caught. When a group of kids in a housing complex in suburban Norway develop uncanny powers – ranging from telekinesis to the ability to control the mind and body of another – they soon graduate from levitating bottle tops to remotely snapping limbs and impaling each other with bits of trees.
This is the second feature from Norwegian director Eskil Vogt, who as Joachim Trier’s co-writer was Oscar-nominated earlier this year for The Worst Person in the World. Tonally, this is closer to the pair’s previous collaboration, the sparky, metaphysical teen picture Thelma. 但 The Innocents is an altogether more chilling proposition that harnesses the terrifying malice of bored kids and blurs the line between social drama and out-and-out horror.
Any film driven by child performances is particularly dependent on quality casting. And in this, the film is first-rate: the four young actors are utterly persuasive, even as they are wielding cast-iron frying pans with their minds. Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum) and her profoundly autistic older sister Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad) are new to the area. Rejected by the older kids, Ida bonds with fellow social outcast Ben (Sam Ashraf), who impresses her with his experiments with telekinesis. Then there’s empathic Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim), who can hear people’s thoughts and can communicate telepathically with the non-verbal Anna.
The child’s perspective on the story means that the film is unquestioning when it comes to the sources of the psychic powers, neatly sidestepping the need for exposition. In a child’s mind, magic is real, black magic painfully so.