The Norwegian supernatural thriller film ‘The Innocents’, also called ‘De uskyldige,’ is an unusual combination of paranormal, drama, and suspense. Set in a residential housing complex, it tells the story of four children who gradually discover certain superpowers in them and how they use these powers to stretch the limits of morality and righteousness. The film provides an apt treatment for such an unabashed plot, as it puts on screen the age when one can hardly differentiate between right and wrong. Together with brilliant acting performances and scenes of horror very unconventional to the genre, it is difficult to look away from “The Innocents” throughout its runtime of 2 hours and is an absolute must-watch.
‘The Innocents’ Plot Summary
A young girl, Ida, moves into a new neighborhood and residential complex with her parents and her autistic sister, Anna. Ida is not too fond of her new surroundings, as she expresses her wish to go away on vacation to her mother, and she sets out to explore alone the next day. The neighborhood has very few kids for Ida to make friends with, as most are away due to school sessions, and the remaining ones are not welcoming to the young girl. Soon, though, a boy around her age, who looks equally lonely, asks to be friends, and Ida agrees. The boy, Ben, takes her away from the playground to a small forested area nearby, where he shows her his makeshift treehouse. Ben then asks to show her something unusual, and kneeling down in front of her, he asks her to throw a small rock down in front of his face. Nothing happens at first, but when Ida tries the same with a lighter bottle-cap, she is amused to see the object fly off in a different direction than its usual course, as if magically pushed away by Ben’s eyes. Ida wants to try it too, but she is unable to do it, because of her lack of practice, according to Ben, and instead shows him her power—to be able to bend her arms a bit backward from her elbow, which is nothing too unusual for a kid to do. The two become friends immediately and go about playfully destroying an ant colony with sticks and a big rock. Ida tells her parents about her new friend, but they understandably do not take her words seriously and instead warn her of the dangers of slingshots. Ida does not have the best time at home, as she gets no company from her elder sister, who is unable to talk or express anything. Either out of jealousy or sheer entertainment, she puts glass shards inside a pair of shoes that Anna soon puts on, but the elderly girl does not express any pain.
Another young girl in the same neighborhood around the age of Ida, Aisha, puts on her shoes to accompany her mother somewhere, and instantly shrieks out in pain as her socks get bloody for a moment and then disappear. She follows some sort of a mental pull towards Anna’s house but is unable to meet her. That night, while in bed, Aisha’s power is revealed—she can mentally hear many people, perhaps only children, but she hears Anna most clearly and can understand her words and thoughts. The next day, she meets with Anna in the playground and develops a friendship with her, while Ida and Ben indulge in more playful cruelty as they throw a cat down a flight of stairs. Ben, at first, seems saddened by the animal not moving, thinking that it has died, but when it does move and tries to get away, he kills it by stomping on its head. This now makes Ida feel strange, and she runs back to her sister in the playground. Ben follows her too, and now the four kids discover that three of them have some superpowers, as Anna also keeps a frisbee spinning forever, as if mentally controlling it, with only Ida not having any unnatural ability.
Major Spoilers Ahead
How do the “innocent” children then use their powers?
The four children start spending their playtime together, throwing small rocks around with Ben and Anna’s powers and giggling away when grown-ups almost walk in on their supernatural play. Aisha reveals that she can more than just hear Anna, as her and Anna’s thoughts and even some actions are connected. She makes Anna correctly draw a shark on her drawing board, only through her mind control, as at the time, the two girls are in their respective houses. She then also helps Anna talk, to the delight of Ida and their mother, who had at first doubted her younger daughter’s claims but could not believe her ears when she herself heard Anna talk. The four kids’ characters are shaped mainly by the kind of life they live in their respective homes. Ben lives with his single mother, who is always very restrictive and dominating of the young boy, to the extent of being almost abusive when the boy is disobedient. Aisha, too, stays with her mother, but in this case, the mother herself seems to be going through some trouble, as she often cries while alone, and yet tries to hide it from her daughter. Despite having a comparatively healthier home, Ida is at times jealous of the extra attention that her parents give to her sister with autism. She is also rather confused about Anna and her existence, and is also unaware that her sister feels pain despite being unable to express it, until Aisha tells her so.
With an almost abusive home and a mother who also seems to have a drug addiction, Ben is the one to swiftly turn his superpowers into actions hurtful to others, as the boy hardly has the mental balance to decide between good and bad. During one playtime, when the four children play a sort of supernatural Chinese whisper (where they stand far away from each other in a forest and mentally tell words to each other), Ida’s comment about Ben being a bad kid and Aisha’s laughter in response enrage Ben terribly. He supernaturally pushes Aisha down aggressively, and his anger also shatters a nearby fallen tree when Anna intervenes and stops him from hurting her friend. Ben realizes that he is now able to use his psychic powers on heavier things than rocks. Back at home, he slightly pushes a boiling pot on the stove, which burns her mother’s finger, and is amused by it. Seeing her son laugh, the mother starts to reprimand him when the boy pulls down a heavy iron pan from a top shelf and drops it on her head, injuring her fatally. He then drops the boiling pot on her legs, which immediately burns her skin. The realization of what he has done hits Ben’s mind for some time, as he tearfully tries to help his mother, but that sense of remorse again swiftly goes away as he lets the dying woman keep lying on the ground and ignores her words when she painfully asks him to inform someone of the accident. As Ben sits and contemplates, living his normal life with his mother lying dead in the kitchen, he realizes that he can also control other people’s bodies with his mind. He quickly decides to exact revenge on a teenage boy who had bullied him some time back, and, taking control of a middle-aged man in the neighborhood, he follows the teenage boy to a nearby over-bridge and stones him to death.
How does Ida try to stop Ben?
The boy continues with his violent psychic rampage as he now starts to hurt people just for the fun of it. He shows off his powers to Ida by breaking the shin bones of a boy playing football in the playground. As he keeps doing all of this, Aisha, and Anna, through Aisha, get to know of these sinister occurrences, but not exactly what Ben has been doing. When Ben kills his mother, Aisha gets hints and indications, seeing her own mother bleeding from her head and feeling something strange at her own house’s gas stove, but she is unable to understand the situation. Now when Ben breaks the boy’s bone, Aisha rushes to the place to confront the boy, and Anna follows, possibly to see to her friend’s safety. Ben attacks Aisha by hurling rocks at her and then tries to choke her to death, only to be intervened by Ida. With Anna soon emerging on the scene, Ben does not get to harm Ida and runs away. Reaching his home, Ben is now distraught and once again remorseful about his ill-actions, but the sense again quickly leaves him, and he now turns completely vengeful. Aisha tries to call Ida and Anna out of their house to plan some safe action against Ben, but the two sisters are not allowed to leave home again by their mother. That night, Ben takes control of Aisha’s mother in order to put an end to the always morally right girl who has by now become his arch-enemy. The film presents the mother’s perspective as well, as everything turns darker and dimmer around her after she is taken over by Ben, and she fearfully checks out the noise with a sharp knife in her hand. Hearing another muffled noise behind her, she turns to see a strange-looking monstrosity standing with a dead rabbit in its hand, while in reality, it is Aisha with her toy bunny. The scared mother walks towards her and stabs her own daughter to death. Anna had been alerted when Aisha started to feel scared, but the girl could not do anything as she was not let out by her parents at first, and she could not tell anyone about the danger as Aisha was no longer controlling her.
The fear of Ben coming to kill them too hits Ida soon, and she tries her best to convince her sister to act in some way, but the sister, sadly, has once again lost her ability to express herself with Aisha, now dead. Some days later, Ida plans to herself act on the situation, and she calls Ben to play with a new toy airplane that she has received. She then playfully takes the boy to the same over-bridge where the teenager had been killed, and pushes the boy down despite a woman witnessing the whole scene. Ida is then taken over by her own fear of having done something terribly wrong, as she mentally finds herself in a dark forested area where a shadowy figure (possibly her own guilt and conscience) chases her. Trying to run from the scenario, she walks into oncoming traffic in real life and is hit by a car. When Ida wakes up at the hospital with a broken leg and other minor injuries, her mother asks her what had happened, as the witness had already reported it. The young girl lied that she and her friend had only been playing when she accidentally pushed him down, and then herself got hurt. Although her mother ascertains that nothing would happen to her, Ida remains unsettled as her mother tells her that Ben had only suffered minor injuries and had run away from the accident spot.
‘The Innocents’ ending explained: What finally happens to Ben, Ida and Anna?
After returning home from the hospital, Ida notices Ben staring at their house from far away, and she continues to try and communicate with Anna about this. One afternoon, as she sees Ben close by once again, she quickly runs and hides in the bathroom, fearing that Ben would kill her by taking control of her mother. The mother, too, suddenly and suspiciously, goes out of the house, saying that she needs to fetch some groceries, and when Ida comes out of her hiding, she notices Anna is also missing. As the young girl runs out and starts breaking the plaster on her leg, Anna walks towards the playground, following Ben. The neighborhood is now teeming with children and their parents as holidays have started, and Anna and Ben now finally face each other, although from two opposing shores of a big pond in between. Ben seems to strike first, with large ripples of water traveling towards Anna, which then seems to strike the girl, and she falls to the ground. As Ben starts walking away, Anna gets up and seems to launch her attack, which the boy tries to mentally fight against. With babies suddenly crying all around the playground, Ben is struck by the attack and falls on a swing, clutching his chest. When Ida finally manages to break the cast around her leg magically by shrieking at it, she finds her sister on the pond’s shore and joins hands with her, as if doubling their attack against Ben. The boy finally seems to be lifeless, with a small burst of released energy dropping and scattering things and other kids around his body. The two sisters return home, and their father tells them of an ambulance that has arrived to treat a kid who has apparently died in the playground. Then Anna gets back to her drawing board, and the film cuts to black.
There are some instances in the film which allow any grown-up viewer to think just like a grown-up and believe that the entire plot has just been a make-believe play that the four children play among each other. After all, all the four children have no friends and are essentially lonely, with no groups of their age accepting them into their playtime. The powers can be looked at as imaginations that the kids assign to themselves for the purpose of entertainment, and then when things start to happen, they think of their own powers to be responsible. The deaths of Ben’s mother and his bully can be seen as an accident and a murder, respectively, which Ben believed to be his doings, as he disliked both of them and wanted to harm them. Similarly, Aisha’s death can also be looked at as the action of her mentally unstable mother, just like the grown-ups in the film claim. However, there are plenty of other instances where this perspective does not fit in, including the final scene with the death of Ben. The charm of ‘The Innocents’ is undoubtedly in looking at it from its supernatural perspective of the fight between good and evil, but in the scary realm of children, who themselves have little idea about morality and righteousness.
“The Innocents” (or “De uskyldige”) is a 2021 drama supernatural film written and directed by Eskil Vogt.