Based on Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, The Innocents remains one of the very best ghost films. As it is re-released for the festive season, Michael Newton explores the freedoms and horrors of trusting your own imagination
One late Victorian Christmas Eve, around the fire, a man settles down to read aloud to the other house-guests the manuscript of a ghost story. His tale is that of a governess in another country house decades before, and of her two charges, a boy called Miles and his sister, Flora. Removed from the world in an idyll of apparent purity, things darken as the governess perceives, or perhaps merely imagines, that the children’s last governess, Miss Jessel, and her Heathcliff-esque lover, the virile servant, Peter Quint, have returned from the dead to possess the children. And then a darker fear comes to her mind: what if the children are complicit in their corruption?