Beckett Warner is in a state of shock after disaster claims her mother’s life. In an attempt to recover, Beckett and her father relocate from their seaside home to the city. Beckett is enrolled in an elite school while her father attempts to reconnect with his writing. It isn’t long before Beckett realizes something is terribly wrong at the posh new establishment that is claiming students’ lives far too often.
Watching the trailer for Innocence, one could be forgiven for expecting a young adult film with a harder edge than most. Unfortunately this doesn’t turn out to be the case as writer/director Hilary Brougher pulls too many punches and the film lets up on the gas too many times just as the tension is building. Ultimately what we are left with is a very uneven piece of filmmaking that could have been very good.
Lets start with the casting of Sophie Curtis as Beckett. I couldn’t help but feel that the only reason she was cast is because of the acting abilities she shares with Twilight star Kristen Stewart. To say her performance is … understated would not be giving her enough credit. Throughout the first half of the film it appears as if she is either drugged or sleepwalking. Her character is grief stricken so I was trying to give her a pass, but I soon realized that her performance wasn’t going to change.
I bring up Twilight because this is obviously the gold standard most young adult film adaptations strive for. It made tons of money and shifted pop culture for thousands of kids across the nation. I’m sure there is nothing director Hilary Brougher would have liked more than to launch a successful franchise, but I can’t help but wish she would have just made a good movie first. Of any film that has been inspired by the Twilight mania so far I must say Innocence is definitely the most interesting. The central plot which I don’t want to give away is gripping. The scares along the way, while severely watered down, are effective. There were so many missed opportunities that could have elevated this film beyond simple knock-off.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what we get here. Innocence is chasing the success of another film and unfortunately, the spectre of Twilight is everywhere. The directing is fairly uninspired. There are actors that are miscast or boring. At points the plot is nonsensical. More than once I had no idea what was going on. There are moments that made no sense and were never explained later. Being based on a novel I suspect a lot of these answers are in the source material, but that doesn’t help me while I’m watching the film does it?
Things aren’t all bad though. Kelly Reilly (Eden Lake, Sherlock Holmes) singlehandedly steals the movie with her performance as lead vamp. She is gorgeous, creepy and charismatic. This should come as no surprise if you’ve seen Eden Lake. Reilly is a highly underrated actress and her starring role almost makes the entire movie worth seeing for it alone. Linus Roache also co-stars as Beckett’s father, whom most will know as Thomas Wayne from Nolan’s Batman franchise. Technically he is one of the leads of the movie but he is so criminally underused that his performance barely registers. And Graham Phillips as Beckett’s love interest is likable and fun to watch.
What is probably most disappointing is the movie’s fear factor. The film goes for genuine scares but every time they aren’t executed very well. I would be willing to bet that director Hilary Brougher has never seen an actual horror film because she doesn’t direct her lead actress or construct these “scare” scenes with any amount of skill.
What we are left with is an ending you can see a mile away that predictably sets up another film. The movie itself feels half baked and ill conceived so to expect an audience to follow its characters into another film is a long shot. It’s too bad because there are good performers and interesting things happening but everything feels kind of soggy and mildewy like the concepts have been sitting around for far too long.
Although the film appears to be just another Young Adult book adaptation, I sensed there could be something more here. Unfortunately, the film squanders every good idea and opportunity it has.