There are things that writer/director Oz Perkins’ (who acted in one of my all-time favorites, Not Another Teen Movie, and also happens to be the son of Psycho’s Anthony Perkins) horror thriller, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, does well. And other things it does not.
When all the other girls at a prestigious upstate New York boarding school have been picked up for the holidays, only Kat (Kiernan Shipka, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and Rose (Lucy Boynton, Sing Street) remain. Kat is a moody outsider with some serious issues, while Rose has her own drama going on—she may be pregnant and doesn’t want to babysit the younger Kat. In the isolated environs, the two are left to contend with a dark mystery that may or may not include Devil worship. Spooky.
At the same time this goes down, a young woman named Joan (Emma Roberts, Hotel for Dogs) has escaped from a mental ward and gets off a bus, also in upstate New York. A couple, James Remar (The Warriors) and Lauren Holly (Dumb and Dumber) take pity on her and give her a ride.
Formerly titled February, The Blackcoat’s Daughter sets the mood with grim aplomb, creating an atmosphere of tense dread, like a non-supernatural Lovecraft with discordant Hitchcockian strings. Foreshadowing, however, is not a strong suit. Roughly a third of the way through, I sat back and said, “Oh, that’s what’s going on,” and sure enough, that’s exactly how things play out. It's easy to see what's coming at every turn.
Though the outcome of the parallels stories is obvious, and the violence doesn’t sneak up, Oz Perkins manages to make it jarring in the end. Though this film is just coming out, it’s actually his first directorial effort—his I am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (which also stars Boynton) hit Netflix last year. And between the two, Perkins certainly shows strong potential if he continues playing in the horror pool.
Solid performances across the board help make The Blackcoat’s Daughter a moderately interesting watch, though the predictability hinders the enjoyment and keeps it from realizing its full potential. [Grade: C]
DirecTV customers can watch The Blackcoat’s Daughter starting on February 16, while A24 will release the film in theaters and on VOD for everyone else on March 31.
This is a slightly altered version of our review from the 2016 Seattle International Film Festival.
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