“The Blackcoat’s Daughter” underwhelms with plodding story

Charles Liu

“The Blackcoat’s Daughter” is a slow, drawn-out false start. This is the kind of movie that appears to drive toward something, but due to director Osgood Perkins’ negligence of story in favor of tone, it ultimately ends up being about a whole lot of nothing.

Perkins is the son of the famed Anthony Perkins, who starred in “Psycho.” He has a good grasp on mood, infusing many of the film’s long scenes with palpable dread. Viewers immediately sense something is wrong when the parents of Kat (Kiernan Shipka), a student at an all-girls boarding school, fail to pick her up for winter break. The oppressing atmosphere of the shadowy school isolates Kat, even though the headmaster requests that an older student, Rose (Lucy Boynton), take care of her.

But Rose has troubles of her own. Facing a possible pregnancy, she lies to her parents about when winter break starts so she can stay at school and sort out the issue with her boyfriend. But having a baby becomes the least of her worries when Satan ensnares Kat.

From here, Perkins fails to make good on this premise by neglecting to have Rose and Kat come into conflict. Rose merely serves as the audience surrogate, watching helplessly as Kat descends further into madness. Inactive characters hardly make for a compelling
filmgoing experience.

Meanwhile, there’s a parallel story involving an enigmatic young woman, Joan (Emma Roberts), who escapes a psychiatric facility and heads toward Kat and Rose’s school. Perkins maintains the mystery of her intentions throughout the movie, but when she runs into Rose’s parents, who claim their daughter is dead, her motivations begin to unravel.

Boynton and Roberts are fine leads who capably handle the thin material, and Shipka shoulders a lot of her character’s possession with admirable creepiness.

Roberts in particular is in a peculiar position with her character, though explaining why will give away the film’s twist. I will leave it at this — to see the twist coming unfairly requires you to greatly suspend your disbelief. Those who don’t see the twist coming will surely feel Perkins has cheaply earned the movie’s shock factor.

“The Blackcoat’s Daughter” doesn’t amount to anything more than an exercise in tone. Characters exchange long stares and deep, brooding silence, and that’s really it. The movie is here to unsettle, and while it succeeds in that regard, its failure to have anything interesting happen until the end makes the film feel like a waste of time. Even then, its closing moments are uninspired, and the movie will do little more than make people wonder why they bothered with it in the first place.

“The Blackcoat’s Daughter”
Running Time: 93 minutes
Rating: R
Score: 1.5/5 stars