Innocence (dir. Hilary Brougher)
The opening scene of INNOCENCE would lead you to believe that it has a surprise or two up its sleeve. A teenage girl, Beckett (Sophie Curtis), is surfing with her mother and having a great time. Suddenly, her mother disappears in the water. The ensuing panic is heightened by the crashing waves and her father (Linus Roache) on the beach, helpless and panicking.
Unfortunately this is the best scene you get in this whiney and exhausted film. We then follow Beckett and her father’s move to New York City to make a new start after her mother’s death. Predictably Beckett is enrolled in a prestigious all-girls school, complete with cutesy uniforms, where not everything is as it seems. A fellow student’s suicide (or was it?) on her first day at school sends Beckett on a trail of investigating exactly what is going on at the school.
One thing that is obvious from the beginning of Beckett’s matriculation is that something is definitely going on with the faculty at the school. All of them, from the teachers to the school nurse, are gorgeous women who all look a little young for their titles. These women are all warm and caring towards Beckett, but a little too friendly than they need to be. The book club that they run on Friday night, along with friends from outside of the school who fit their same profile, raises suspicion when it happens to coincide with the mysterious suicide.
Featuring plot holes and incongruent details that are all too common in films without originality, INNOCENCE is a perfect example of sloppy filmmaking. Beckett has visions of other girls who have tragically died at the school, but it is never clear how or why she is seeing them. Is she somehow special? Clairvoyant? A medium? Nothing is explained. It is also never made clear if these visions are ghosts or hallucinations. No matter what they are, these visions are the only things that ever move the plot along, so I can’t complain too much about them.
Even with these plot issues, my biggest issue was with Beckett. She acts flat and sullen throughout the entire film. At first it is easy to dismiss her droopy eyes and weak vocal projection as a shy girl who has just lost her mother, but as the film drags on she continues to be a drag. I am not familiar with Curtis’s other roles, so I cannot quite determine if this was a misguided decision by the director or if the actress could not bring anything else to the role. As the central character in a potentially emotional horror film she fails to carry the film.
One thing I did like is the realistic depiction of contemporary teenagers. Their relationships and afterschool activities were genuine. Most of the dialogue was free of dialect missteps. Also, when Beckett loses her virginity it is not a huge romantic pinnacle of her teen years, it is just a step to take with her crush. The teens were well thought out and reflective of kids today.
But having some well depicted youngsters is not enough to warrant a viewing of the film. It brings nothing new to the schoolgirls-in-plaid subgenre of horror film and is so boring that the main character is sleepwalking her way through the clichés.