Right near my house there is a wooded country lane. About a quarter of a mile down the lane the woods open up into a meadow, three fields deep, surrounded by trees on all sides. It's a lonely, creepy, secluded stretch of road. One of the neighbours who lived directly opposite committed suicide across the way about ten years ago, and this meadow is on the boundary of that family's property. In the distance, the field has a large stone standing upright, and it's at just the right distance that it always, every time I walk by there, makes me think of that scene in The Innocents (1961), where Miss Jessel is standing in the bullrushes watching Flora.
These films look at the traditional English ghost story in the country house with an American eye. This is why they can be so incredibly frightening with such remarkable simplicity. Confident Enlightenment rationalism confronts the irrational burden of generations of secret histories. The plainest images take us right back to Gothic and Romantic candlelit scenes, and secluded estates like those depicted in Wuthering Heights or Frankenstein, where reflections, mirrors, windows make hard logic and rational self-perception rapidly unravel: