Review: ‘The Blackcoat’s Daughter’ builds dreadful mood
An unsettling horror tale that establishes a consistent tone of looming dread
“The Blackcoat’s Daughter” is a dark, moody, unnerving little horror tale, building on a consistent atmosphere of dread and slowly rising tension.
Set at a boarding school in upstate New York, the film unfolds in a trio of chapters, each focused on one of its three female protagonists. There’s Kat (Kiernan Shipka), a student waiting for her parents to pick her up when school is let off for break; Rose (Lucy Boynton, “Sing Street”), an older classmate of Kat, who is dealing with issues relating to her boyfriend; and Joan (Emma Roberts), who we meet at a bus stop as she’s headed toward the boarding school’s town.
Writer-director Oz Perkins is patient with his story and lets it unfold slowly at a languid pace not typical of horror films. (In pacing and execution, the film recalls the deliberate gait of “The Witch.”)
There are bits of David Lynch in the film’s style — Boynton’s introduction is almost a nod to “Twin Peaks’” Donna Hayward, and there are signposts of “Lost Highway” throughout — and Oz successfully sets a tone of looming evil. The darkness is coming, and you feel it on its way.
There’s something old-fashioned in the way “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” unfolds, and it feels like it could have been made in 1982 or 1974. (It’s been sitting on the shelf awaiting a release date since 2015, but with this movie, there’s no rush.)
The payoff comes in the performances of Oz’s trio — Shipka, Sally Draper on “Mad Men,” is especially frightening — and the film’s nightmarish, malevolent mood. “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” is a self-contained tale of evil that knows exactly what it’s doing.
‘The Blackcoat’s Daughter’
Rated R for brutal bloody violence and brief strong language
Running time: 95 minutes