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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 5 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 36
Teenage fright-flick Innocence lacks magic, suspense
Arts & Entertainment
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Teenage fright-flick Innocence lacks magic, suspense

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

INNOCENCE Now playing

Beckett Warner (Sophie Curtis), still reeling from the tragic death of her mother in a freak surfing accident, has moved to Manhattan with her renowned author father Miles (Linus Roache) to start a new life. She's been enrolled in the prestigious Hamilton Preparatory School, and while there's initial trepidation, she nonetheless quickly makes friends with the popular Jen Dunham (Sarah Sutherland). She also hits it off with the school's kindly, not to mention gorgeous, resident nurse, Pamela (Kelly Reilly), a woman with a complicated past littered with regret and loss that in some ways mirrors her own.

But Beckett can't shake the notion that not all is right with the school. After one of her fellow classmates appears to commit suicide right in front of her, the virginal 16-year-old starts to investigate Hamilton's mysterious history, uncovering secrets that chill her to the bone. Turns out, there's something ancient and murderous stalking the hallways, and if she's not careful, the next blood to be spilled in the pursuit of eternal youth and perfection might just be her own.

Having never read Jane Mendelsohn's popular piece of Young Adult fiction, I'm not sure how close the supernaturally-tinged suspense tale Innocence parallels the events depicted in the source material. What I will say is that I'm relatively certain it doesn't read like a throwaway episode of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' or 'Supernatural,' a disposable effort the writing rooms of those respective programs wouldn't have given a second thought towards pushing into production. It's a silly, straight-forward and rudimentary tale of secrecy and witchcraft, and I can't say the film itself produced a single, solitary surprise in any one of its overly familiar 96 minutes.

At the same time, thanks to some solid directorial choices, not to mention a delectably devilish and seductively slithery performance from Reilly, and a solid, magnetically complex turn from Curtis, the movie ends up being far more watchable and maybe even moderately more worthwhile than it otherwise has any right to be. Hilary Brougher (Stephanie Daley), co-writing with Tristine Skyler (Getting to Know You), has mounted a somewhat impressive independent production, the filmmaker keeping the pace moving at a solid clip yet doing so in a way that doesn't feel needlessly hurried or rushed. More, she keeps the focus squarely on Beckett and her journey, allowing her transformation to drive the narrative, thus making it easy to root for the youngster and to become emotionally involved in her travails.

Curtis is good, and even when the script starts moving into melodramatic cliché and supercilious emotional excess she somehow manages to remain an intriguing presence throughout. She builds upon her supporting turns in movies as diverse as Arbitrage, The Art of Getting By and The English Teacher nicely, the actress grounding this story with passion and emotion, giving far more of herself to the proceedings than it honestly deserves. The fact her chemistry with romantic interest Graham Phillips (who is nothing more than an empty vessel impossible to care about) is nonexistent doesn't end up being more of a problem than it is speaks volumes, Curtis an engaging young talent worth keeping an eye on.

Yet there is a Made-for-TV vibe that threatens to drown the proceedings start to finish, and as nice as it all looks and as good as the majority of the cast might be - save Phillips - the fact CW programs like 'The Vampire Diaries' and 'The Originals' (not to mention the aforementioned 'Supernatural') does stuff like this week-in and week-out with far more complexity and imagination doesn't help matters in the slightest. It's hard to come up with a good reason as to why buying a ticket to see Innocence in the theater is a worthwhile endeavor, and I'm hard-pressed to believe even die-hard fans of the novel will be satisfied by much this adaptation has to offer.

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Teenage fright-flick Innocence lacks magic, suspense
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