Aug. 20, 2017
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'The Blackcoat’s Daughter' Review

Shipka shines, the rest feels flat

March 29, 2017, 12:00 am

The introspective, perhaps more socially conscious “new wave horror” movement in cinema has achieved some pretty killer results (what’s up, It Follows?!), but generally speaking, the tone and pacing of such movies can err toward the tedious. Whether this is meant to convey a methodical or even clinical approach remains unclear, and though themes and inspiration from the heyday of 1980s horror are surely part of the equation, we’re often left with a lot of “atmospheric” quiet moments and little payoff. The Blackcoat’s Daughter (which is from 2015 but somehow opens now) falls someplace in there, though the closing few minutes kind of make it worth it … kind of.

Two teen girls are left stranded at their upstate New York boarding school over a break when their parents don’t arrive, and as things start to get creepy—y’know, because boarding schools are big and also creepy—young Rose (Lucy Boynton of Sing Street) begins to get the heebie-jeebies from Kiernan Shipka’s character, Kat. Meanwhile, another young woman, Joan (Emma Roberts), heads toward the school with an older couple facing the loss of a child. Roberts, in all of her not-talking, weird-face-making, not-responding-to-simple-questions glory, disappoints, though it seems she sincerely tried to bring her all.

But still, questions remain. What’s up at the school? Why is Joan heading there? Where the hell are everyone’s parents? And why would the school be like, “Sure, you guys can just stay here by yourselves, just maybe call once in awhile or something”?

The answers slowly (and we mean slowly) unfold and we start to think that maybe Kat’s, like, got a demon all up in her. Ultimately, Shipka’s performance becomes the film’s saving grace. She’s always carried a certain quiet intensity and, with very little dialogue, she brings a new twist to the horror trope of “creepy-ass little girl.”

You’ll probably need to be a horror fan to get the most out of this one, but The Blackcoat’s Daughter also has a funny way of sticking with you afterwards. It’s slightly rewarding to figure out the mild twist, but more exciting to revel in Shipka’s mastery of scary faces.


+ Kiernan Shipka
- Slow as hell; minimal payoff

The Blackcoat’s Daughter
Directed by Oz Perkins
With Shipka, Boynton and Roberts
Jean Cocteau Cinema,
R, 93 min.


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