Netflix’s The Innocents puts a horror twist on teenage romance

It may look like your average YA fodder, but there’s something sinister lurking beneath the surface of this supernatural drama.

Words

Catherine Pearson

The poster for Netflix’s The Innocents has all the trappings of a Twilight-esque teen romance. The visual allusions to the YA vampire saga are clear: two young lovers are bathed in pale light, save for the bright red of Netflix’s logo and the bright blue of protagonist June’s (Sorcha Groundsell) eyes as she clings to her boyfriend Harry (Percelle Ascott). You may think you’ve seen this story before. The trailer, however, hints at something very different.

Set amid the vast splendour of rural Norway, we catch a glimpse of what appears to be some sort of secret testing facility. We see June wired up to electrodes as Guy Pierce’s Halvoson watches on behind a wall of glass. June is clearly different. And so is the show. Of course, a series about two runaway teens whose love threatens to harm them cannot be divorced from the tropes we know all too well.

Bella Swan’s concerned and somewhat comically threatening paternal figure in Twilight here takes the form of June’s forceful father, John (Sam Hazeldine), and her brother, Ryan (Arthur Hughes), who must overcome his own fear of the wider world to ensure his sister’s future. June and Harry are never far from being caught. While their families are concerned for the pair’s wellbeing, the mysterious and imposing Steinar (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson) is hot on their trail – and it’s not entirely clear if he means them well.

The story enters fresh territory by combining elements of teen romance with the icy aesthetic of Nordic noir and some horrifying physical transformation – June finds herself shifting into the bodies of others while her victim lies motionless, their eyes flitting back and forth as though they are having a seizure. It is an ability that she both doesn’t want and cannot control and, to her terror, a power that leaves her victims in a critical condition.

It’s a horror trope as old as time: the young woman who doesn’t know her own strength. We see June at the same stage in life as many of her horror counterparts, teetering on the brink of womanhood and discovering the burgeoning power within her.

We’ve all seen the very literal allusion to Carrie’s coming of age when the pristine prom queen becomes a blood-drenched monster in Brian De Palma’s 1976 horror classic, and in The Innocents June falls victim to a similar curse. She is a young, virginal woman who suddenly wakes up to her burgeoning sexual desire and, with it, her own monstrous capabilities.

As with many a horror heroine, June must navigate her desires, newfound power and personal relationships and make it out alive. All the while, we’re left holding out for the happy ending we’ve come to expect from teenage romance.

Published 9 Aug 2018

Tags: Netflix

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