Hilary Brougher's YA-ish horror satire/romance/whatzit Innocence, adapted from Jane Mendelsohn's novel, boasts a wicked setup, some strong performances, several gloriously bloody spook-out images, and a movie-wrecking hypoglycemic listlessness. In its swoony middle, I yearned to give it a cookie.
Its heroine, Beckett (Sophie Curtis), has an inspired mystery to solve and all the secrets of a creepy-ritzy prep school to expose, but she's stubbed out for much of the film, victim of what appears to be the systemic drugging of the girls of Hamilton Prep by the gorgeous school nurse (Kelly Reilly). Tending to uniformed schoolgirls, she always looks like she just left the Vanity Fair Oscar party — and like she's trying to keep her smile going even though she's bitten into something sour. She's horning in on Beckett's widowed father, but she plays nice as long as Beckett doesn't poke into her affairs. As Beckett is beset by ghosts and has found evidence of three suspicious suicides at Hamilton, it's a marvel they get along as long as they do. But just when it seems Beckett's about to crack the case, the plodding Innocence sends her to Central Park for slow-mo skateboard lessons.
Things go nuts, eventually, with revelations of -- well, look, the clues are the size and complexity of Duplo blocks, so I'm going to spill: The women who run Hamilton look young and fab because they sup upon blood of virgins. The school's staff encourage kids toward "purity" -- although the movie's never brave enough to satirize abstinence-only sex ed. But it is courageous enough to let its teen heroine unburden herself of her virginity at the time of her choosing with a partner she picks.