An English governess finds employment in a huge country mansion, looking after two young orphans but things start to become distorted as dark secrets of the house are revealed and begin to play on the mind of the nanny. She soon finds herself convinced of child possession and sees the 10 year olds acting in a disturbing and somewhat adult manner.
Deborah Karr plays Miss Giddens, the governess and gives us a stunning performance in this role, deranged and misguided by visions of the recently deceased occupants of the mansion and hearing of a wicked love affair, the fantasy builds in her troubled mind with the young children her focus. The idea of the possession of the 10 year old Miles (Martin Stephens) by the treacherous father figure who was involved in the dastardly romance, a man who beat his lover whilst the children watched. These images alone offer some horror, but to have this beast possess a child is a shocking thought. Miss Giddens is haunted by the ghosts of the mansion and convinced that it is her duty to save the children, which could easily be misinterpreted as a form of grooming with some seriously risky moments. There are deep connotations and the plot offers a lot of controversy.
The cinematography is beautiful with sharp and stunning frames enriched by shadows and silver glints of the black and white film; exceptional. The sound also plays a huge role in creating atmosphere, notably the scene with doves; the silence is deafening, and not forgetting one of the pinnacle moments of hysteria as Giddens grabs at door handles and runs along corridors of the huge mansion.
The children both provide very memorable performances. Stephens offers some extremely chilling scenes whilst Pamela Franklin (Miles’ sister, Flora) in her debut movie shows real ability later seen in other genre classics, ‘Legend of Hell House’ and ‘Satan’s School for Girls’.