The supernatural thriller “Innocence” feels like something that Stephenie Meyer might have come up with (or her business people, anyway): a sort of “Rosemary’s Baby” for Twi-hards. It’s an idea that could make for decent genre viewing, if only its cast had some range, and its indie reach didn’t exceed its mainstream-polished grasp.
Our subdued Kristen Stewart stand-in is Beckett (Sophie Curtis, “Arbitrage”), whose comfortable teen existence is upended at the start when a gray-weather surfing outing with Mom turns tragic. (If you’re just not buying it – That was a rogue wave? -- you’ll likely have trouble at a few other junctures where director Hilary Brougher apparently wants us to roll with her budget.) Beckett and her novelist dad (Linus Roache) subsequently move into a Dakota-gloomy New York apartment, and she enrolls in a prep school that’s got a vibe to match. What’s with the sketchy, closed-door yummy mummies’ book club? Or the mysterious tea they’re always drinking? Or the slinky, eerily soothing school “nurse” (Kelly Reilly, “Calvary”) and the pills she’s always handing out? Or the grisly, plaid-skirted ghouls that Beckett keeps seeing, including a suicide victim from like – darn the luck! – day one at school?
As all of this slowly develops, we’re left wondering how much of Beckett’s quiet evenness might hint at some spell she’s under, and how much is just Curtis playing a typical teen trying to cope. Either way, there’s a nice authenticity to scenes of Beckett and pierced, sardonic new friend Jen (underutilized Sarah Sutherland) riding the subway, kicking around visually fresh Upper Manhattan locations, and tuning out Jen’s boozy mom (Perrey Reeves, “Entourage”). Beckett’s budding romance with hunky Tobey (Graham Phillips, “The Good Wife”) isn’t overplayed either, even if it’s a smidge glossier than the girl stuff.
As soon as the movie really gets down to paranormal business, though – yikes. Never mind all the uncreative ways that Beckett starts piecing together the truth about her demonic-coven surroundings – by spending half a second on the Internet, or finding news clippings conveniently buried in her locker, or paying attention to clues staring her in the face. Curtis and her young castmates don’t play freaked with any conviction. And Reilly, impassively creepy as she is here, can’t entirely save her character’s underscripted machinations or campily overblown, blood-of-virgins salivating. Once the movie stops being about losing innocence in any kind of grounded way, it completely loses us, too.