Innocence, a post-Twilight teenage horror-lite confection, takes a machine-gun approach to filmmaking, spraying the audience with as many genres, storylines, themes, and cliches as possible, hoping one will stick.
Set at a girls' school, Innocence is an intellectual and emotional coming-of-age story; a tender romance about first loves and first heartbreaks; an irony-drenched exposé of a coven of witches; a bloody horror yarn about Lilith-like baby-eating vampires. (No actual babies are involved, but you get the point.)
While it misses the mark most of the time, director Hilary Brougher's film has a promising story, an impressive cast, and occasional moments of grace.
Adapted from the young-adult novel by Jane Mendelsohn, Innocence stars Sophie Curtis (Arbitrage) as 16-year-old Beckett Warner, an only child whose mother recently died in a Montauk surfing accident. Yearning for a new start, Sophie moves to Manhattan with her novelist dad Miles (Linus Roache), and enrolls at Hamilton, an exclusive, chichi prep school.
Run by an all-female board of trustees and an all-female staff, Hamilton is the ground zero of feminist femininity - with all its pleasures, its desires, and its terrors.
Innocence excels in its portrayal of these perfect, beautiful, rich, powerful, confident women, played with panache by a coterie of terrific actors including Sarita Choudhury, Stephanie March, Liya Kebede, and Perrey Reeves. Hamilton's queen bee is not the school's principal but, rather, its enticing, curvaceous nurse, Pamela, who seems to have Europe's top fashion designers on speed dial.
Played with obvious relish by Kelly Reilly (Sherlock Holmes, Above Suspicion), Pamela is a cross between an earth mother and a latter-day Salome whose subtle smile gives away just a hint of the lush, velvety sins she commits when the sun goes down.
Pamela quickly makes a move on Beckett and her dad. She's the girl's ideal mom and the lonely, milquetoast dad's fantasy date.
It doesn't take long before Beckett realizes all is not well at Hamilton. She discovers a string of students have committed suicide under mysterious circumstances.
One day, she notices that the rich, dark tea Pamela and her friends drink every afternoon has a creepily reddish hue not unlike . . . blood!
Who are these women? What do they whisper about every time they meet? And why are they so insistent that Beckett remain a virgin?
Curtis undermines her otherwise fine performance by portraying Beckett's depression as sleepiness. Hers is a perpetual somnolence, interrupted by the odd lugubrious expression, that becomes contagious.
Innocence features a stand-out performance by Sarah Sutherland (Kiefer's daughter, Donald's granddaughter) as Beckett's BFF Jen. Sutherland, who has done a handful of notable walk-ons as Julia Louis-Dreyfus' daughter in HBO's Veep, seems to have inherited the family gift.
Directed by Hilary Brougher. With Sophie Curtis, Kelly Reilly, Sarah Sutherland, Stephanie March, Graham Phillips, Linus Roache. Distributed by Spotlight Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 36 mins.
Parent's guide: PG-13 (some sexuality, language, brief scenes of bloody horror).
Playing at: area theaters.