Saturday, August 12, 2017

Innocence – review

Directed by: Hilary Brougher

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

Vampires and girl schools, a trope that goes back to at least Blood of Dracula and, you know what, they can work. This isn’t in a girl school, technically, as there seems to be two boys in attendance at the school (perhaps one or two more) – necessary for story and yet the classes we see are not co-ed and the alumni are all women.

It also struggles with its identity, veering into Hallmark or Time Life moments, whilst trying to be supernatural. As we will see there are moments that are questionable with regards the supernatural layering and its appropriateness (in a plot sense).

leaving her old life
So we start on the shoreline and Beckett (Sophie Lane Curtis) and her mom (Kelly Bensimon) are going surfing whilst novelist dad, Miles ( Linus Roache), watches from the shore. Mom slips off her board and vanishes into the sea. Later we are told she suffered an aneurism. Cut forwards four months and dad and daughter are leaving their home and moving to the city, into an apartment found for them by Natalie (Stephanie March).

seeing herself dead
The film failed to introduce Natalie properly at this moment and one assumed she was either sister to Miles (or his dead wife) but actually she is his literary agent. Beckett finds her room, opens the closet, sees a figure (which is her, dead) and then jumps when Tobey (Graham Phillips) walks into her room. Tobey is Natalie’s son, one of the incongruous male students at the school Beckett will be enrolled in, and soon to be teenage love interest. Why Beckett sees a vision of herself, and later the ghosts of victims, is not answered – one assumes a sensitivity.

Sophie Lane Curtis as Beckett
So, Beckett enrols in the school (which Natalie is intimately connected to). She has a bit of a full first day. Firstly there is a class where someone comments on a book character that she was devirginized (an awkward word, to be sure) and thus had no value (ouch, could we pound a plot premise any harder). Then she spots a popular girl, Sunday (Chloe Levine), cutting in the bathroom – and the girl suggests the dropped razor is Beckett's. Then she enters a do not enter area, which turns out to be a garden courtyard. The principle (Liya Kebede) takes her from there to meet alumni and Beckett has a vision of the carpet turning to blood, so passes out. Dad collects her, after the school has let the kids go home for the night, and Beckett, on the threshold, virtually gets squished by a suicidal Sunday who throws herself from the roof.

Kelly Reilly as Pamela
Beckett had seen Sunday in intense conversation with the school nurse, Pamela (Kelly Reilly), but we don’t get a reason really offered for the suicide. Pamela (our primary baddy) does keep a box of mementos from victims and has something of Sunday’s, so did she drive her to suicide? Perhaps. The insinuation is that Sunday got herself devirginized and so was no longer of value… virgin blood being the order of the day. Pamela manages to get herself into Miles’ bed and the school psychiatrist (Sarita Choudhury) gets the virgin Beckett onto a course of prescription pills. Beckett begins seeing ghosts both of Sunday and a pair of ex-students who “drowned” but were exsanguinated but, to be honest, this vision aspect is plot superfluous and done, I think, to inject a touch of the supernatural in what otherwise would have spent a good deal of its time being a Hallmark/teen drama.

set for scarifice
So, vampire lore. There is a core of alumni/staff who are vampires – but are referred to as lamiae. Other than being immortal it appears that they only need blood, drawn in a ritual, at certain times. The only really thing we see from the lamiae of a supernatural nature (until one dies) is their eyes glowing. Beckett (paranoid and not believed) researches and finds details of a Countess Esmerelda, who I assume was meant to remind one of Bathory – though blood drinking is the order of the day.

the countess
I also assume it was she who turned Pamela – who in turn then turned the others in the alumni (and one student). The figure presiding over the ritual would seem to be her but the film doesn’t tell us for certain. What is clear is that the Countess isn’t remaining young – unlike the other lamiae (who would appear to have all been Victorians, or so the one old photo suggests). Perhaps the ritual would have made her young again also and it appears to need two sacrifices.

death of a lamia
There are hooded, cultist looking figures at the ritual… if these are drawn from the student body the film doesn’t tell us either. If a lamia is stabbed in the heart (by a ritual blade, but one guesses any heart-stabby implement will do) then they rapidly age, and turn into swirling cgi dust. Any they had turned would also seem to die at this point. If non-virgin blood is consumed it is spat out as it is useless and turning needs the lamia’s blood to be ingested.

supping blood
The film wasn’t brilliant but nor was it the worst out there. The acting wasn’t outstanding at all, and was roughly at that Time Life generic level. The ghost girls were almost pointless, at least without exploring Beckett’s clairvoyance within the narrative. The idea of the lamiae hunting the school for decades, rather than draw victims from a non-associated background, seemed silly. The Countess' background needed exploring and we could have done with an explicit narrative suggesting that Pamela supernaturally seduced Miles rather than the heartbroken widower letting her fall into his bed with no explanation. 3.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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