Today, the Criterion Collection releases The Innocents, Jack Clayton’s magnificently moody and psychologically complex adaptation of Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw. Aside from the crisp, deep-focus black-and-white cinematography, the elegant scares, the edgy abstract imagery, and Deborah Kerr’s terrific leading performance, the film is made particularly memorable by the two truly disturbing children at its center — and thus, with Halloween sneaking up like a well-dressed child with a knowing smirk, we take a look at some of cinema’s creepiest kids.
Miles and Flora, The Innocents
New governess Miss Giddens (Kerr) first encounters Flora (Pamela Franklin), who seems like a sweet enough kid — yet the more time she spends with her, the more she (and we!) are troubled by her glassy eyes and vacant smile. But she’s positively comforting next to little brother Miles (Martin Stephens), who makes his true nature known fairly early on by choking his governess and announcing, “Now you’re my prisoner!” But that’s just a warm-up for his most unnerving moment, when he commands her, “Kiss me goodnight, Miss Giddens,” and the intensity of the smooch is topped only by the disturbing smugness of his satisfied little smile afterwards.