The 2021 Norwegian supernatural thriller film The Innocents, directed by Eskil Vogt, follows a group of children who begin to harness special abilities as they spend time together during summer. Struggling with different issues, the children learn about good and bad as their abilities start to take a darker turn. The film stars Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, Sam Ashraf, Mina Yasmin Bremseth, Asheim Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Morten Svartveit, Kadra Yusuf, and Lisa Tønne. The chilling film is definitely worth watching and it has received positive reviews from critics. Variety praised the film in their review and wrote, “This superior chiller is both a satisfying genre exercise and a minute observation of the process by which young children acquire morality; its most striking aspect may just be the empathy Vogt displays for his 7- to 11-year-old stars and the extraordinary juvenile performances that empathy brings out.” The Hollywood Reporter also published a review of the film saying, “The simplicity of the digital visual effects, there but very sparingly deployed, adds a realism to a drama that makes it even more likely to haunt the imagination afterwards.” If you were drawn to the film’s dark themes and you’re looking for similar films that evoke a lot of eeriness, here are five of our recommendations.
Village of the Damned
A classic film that features creepy children is the 1960 science fiction horror film Village of the Damned by Anglo-German director Wolf Rilla. The film is adapted from the novel The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) by John Wyndham. The film is set in a small village that experiences a mysterious phenomenon that makes everyone in the village fall asleep for several hours. After some time, a much stranger phenomenon occurs when all the women in the town become pregnant and give birth on the same day. The children also grow quickly and look similar to each other with features of platinum blonde hair and striking eyes. In a review by Empire, they wrote, “Here, what works is the shape the threat comes in: the Midwich children are the creepiest ever seen on film, with their identical blonde wigs (an unsettling effect is achieved by casting real-life brunette kids whose colouring is subtly wrong for their hair) and staring eyes (in some prints, a glowing effect was added).”
The 2018 American supernatural psychological horror film Hereditary shares an eerie atmosphere with The Innocents. The film is written and directed by Ari Aster in his directorial debut and stars Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, and Gabriel Byrne. The plot centers on Ellen and her family who experiences unexplained events after her mother’s death. As they grieve, Ellen and her family discover a sinister secret about their family. The film received critical acclaim and was a commercial success, becoming A24’s highest-grossing film. The Guardian gave a glowing five-star review of the film and wrote, “Hereditary is basically a brilliant machine for scaring us, and Collette’s operatic, hypnotic performance seals the deal every second she’s on the screen – though Wolff is also very good as the cool teen who regresses into a frightened little boy.”
The 1976 supernatural horror film The Omen, which features Damien, a boy who has dark supernatural abilities, is definitely on our list. The film was directed by Richard Donner with a screenplay by David Seltzer and stars Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Harvey Spencer Stephens, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick Troughton, Martin Benson, and Leo McKern. The plot centers on Robert who secretly adopts a boy named Damien to replace their stillborn baby. A series of mysterious events begin happening that seem to be connected to Damien. The film received critical acclaim and earned two Oscar nominations, winning Best Original Score for Jerry Goldsmith. The film rose to a movie franchise, starting with Damien: Omen II, followed by Omen III: The Final Conflict, in 1981, and in 1991 with Omen IV: The Awakening. Empire published a review of the film and gave special praise to the performance of Stephens as Damien saying, “There was nothing cursed about either The Omen’s critical or commercial reception, with both Peck and co-star Lee Remick being singled out for particular praise. However, it was the performance of Harvey Stephens as the young Damien that invested the film with the chill of genuine credibility.”
Orphan is a 2009 psychological horror film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra with a screenplay written by David Leslie Johnson from a story by Alex Mace. The film stars Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, C. C. H. Pounder and Jimmy Bennett. The film follows a couple Kate and John who adopt a girl named Esther after losing their unborn baby. As their new daughter becomes part of their family, a series of mysterious events occur and the child begins to display disturbing behaviors that lead Kate to investigate more about Esther. The film received mixed reviews from critics but earned praise for Fuhrman’s performance as Esther. In an article published by Deep Focus Review, they commended the film’s take on a familiar plot saying, “Orphan plays with audience expectation and avoids cliché setups when possible, and therefore it concentrates more on creating a sophisticated, layered psychological thriller around your typical bad seed yarn.”
The last movie on our list is the classic 1982 horror film Poltergeist directed by Tobe Hooper and written by Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais, and Mark Victor from a story by Spielberg. The film stars JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O’Rourke, and Beatrice Straight and follows a family that is haunted by ghosts that communicate with them through their television. While it starts out as harmless ghosts, things change when their youngest daughter Carol Ann is abducted by these ghosts. The film received positive reviews and was a commercial success, becoming the eighth-highest-grossing film of 1982. It was also nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Original Score, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Visual Effects, and won BAFTA Award for Best Special Visual Effects. RogerEbert.com wrote a review of the classic horror film praising its treatment of a horror film saying, “Poltergeist” is an effective thriller, not so much because of the special effects, as because Hooper and Spielberg have tried to see the movie’s strange events through the eyes of the family members, instead of just standing back and letting the special effects overwhelm the cast along with the audience.”