Writer's Guild of America
Nominated: Best Written American Drama - William Archibald, Truman Capote
WHY IS IT ESSENTIAL?
Atmosphere: Jack Clayton knows how to direct a ghost story. The atmosphere of this film is perfect. From the second Giddens arrives to the house, the audience can just feel something is amiss. The mood is beyond creepy. Clayton shoots the house to make it not only seem dark and threatening, but also stifling and claustrophobic. Every shadow seems threatening. Adding to the effect is that the film is shot is masterfully shot in black and white by director of photography Freddie Francis, who went on to shoot The Elephant Man, Dune and Return to Oz. Adding to the atmosphere is the obvious lack of musical score. Instead of relying on a suspenseful score, this movie is (almost) in complete silence... which amplifies the spookiness of the situation. In fact the only music that is heard throughout the film is the song "Willow Waylee" sung by the children. It opens the film over the credits and it is used strategically throughout the course of the movie. This is what a ghost story should feel like.
Themes: The title of the film suggests that the "innocents" are the (possibly) possessed children. The children's actions could be dictated by the supposed possession, or they could just be "bad seeds." The ghosts in the house that committed evil in their past could be literal ghosts, or metaphors for the corruption of man (or both.) This is a film about evil and corruption... and in the end, no one is ever really innocent.