The best thing about “Echoes of Innocence” might be its title, which sounds like it’s going to be soft porn, or maybe a Lifetime Network movie about child molestation. The funny part is that it’s actually a movie about NOT having sex.
Innocence has been echoing in the ears of morose high school senior Sarah (Sara Simmonds) for years. A devoted Christian who goes to Catholic confessional but who attends her own makeshift church services out in the woods, complete with candles and fervent prayers, Sarah decided long ago that she would save herself for marriage. Ever since middle school, when she gave an impassioned speech on the chasteness of Joan of Arc, Sarah has been known as The Virgin, or just Virge. She’s kind of pretty despite dressing all Gothy, and she’s a frequent recipient of unwelcome advances by horny high school boys, each believing he can be the one to break her will.
If only they knew how deeply committed Sarah is! And also how deeply crazy. Not only does she have her own church in the woods, but she also has “visions” on a regular basis — not the voice of God speaking to her, exactly, but vague foretellings of things to come and people to watch out for.
Anyway, Sarah doesn’t even date any of her classmates, let alone sleep with them. When she was about 12, she and her then-boyfriend Christopher (Cody Linley) agreed that on her 18th birthday, they would a) get married and b) do it. In flashback, we see Christopher speed out of town in the back of a limousine, promising to return someday. We are never told why he had to leave so suddenly, nor why he had a limo, but never mind. The point is, Sarah is almost 18, and she’s still waiting for the second coming of Chris.
Meanwhile, there are two new boys in school. One of them is named Dave (Jake McDorman), and he’s a nice guy who wants to do a human-interest story about Virge for the school newspaper, which leads to a friendship — but no dating! — between them. The other boy is named Alec (Matt Vodvarka), and he’s a prolific de-virginator who has set his sights on Sarah, the Mt. Everest of chastity.
Oh, and you should know that Sarah’s mom (Dana Jackson) is an abusive alcoholic or manic-depressive or something, and also an unrepentant tramp. She lives in a trailer and awaits visits from her daughter so she can yell at her some more. Sarah lives safely on the other side of town with Grandma (Scottie Wilkison), who watches TV very loudly at all hours.
The movie, an indie flick written and directed by N. Todd Sims, is unabashedly a Christian allegory, so full of religious symbolism that it probably qualifies for tax-exempt status. Sarah is waiting for Christopher (note the name) to return as he promised he would, and she hopes to be one of the wise virgins who is prepared for him when he does.
Alec represents the devil, of course. He wears a black trenchcoat, listens to heavy metal music and — I swear I’m not making this up — uses yearbook photos of his conquests as low-impact voodoo dolls, causing brief and mild torment to Sarah when he does so. Later in the film, when he realizes she is slipping out of his clutches and into the respectful arms of Dave, he lurks behind trees devilishly before enacting a plan of actual violence, during which he stops being a Satan figure and actually sort of BECOMES the devil, deep scary voice and everything.
That’s when it all goes off the rails. It’s a bad movie anyway, weakly written and featuring many hilarious moments of over-the-top acting and silly plotting. (I challenge anyone not to guffaw whenever Sarah’s mother is on the screen.) But the climax completely ruins it, turning supernatural and bizarre without warning, and culminating in an amazingly goofy resolution. The film means well, of course, but that’s all it does well.
D+ (1 hr., 57 min.; )