“During the dead of winter, a troubled young woman embarks on a mysterious journey to an isolated prep school where two stranded students face a sinister threat from an unseen evil force.” That’s Google’s synopsis. Emma Roberts plays the “troubled young woman” Joan, while the “two stranded students” are Kat (Kiernan Shipka) and Rose (Lucy Boynton). Joan is Kat and Rose are stranded at their Catholic prep school, which just let out for winter break, because Kat’s parents seem to have vanished en route to pick her up. Rose’s didn’t know school was getting out earlier than Friday. It’s decided that Rose, a senior, will watch over freshman Kat until Rose’s parents arrive to take her away and Kat’s situation is sorted out.
The mood is thick and slow as the two storylines dance around each other. For a while, it seems as if they won’t ever meet, but give it time--the movie has to build up a head of disquieting imagery first, so that when things finally begin to fall into place, they do so with the suddenness of an axe striking on concrete. The Blackcoat’s Daughter will just be slow for some; but for others, it’s a movie that positively oozes dread, laying it on as heavy as oil as we wait for an early spark of intrigue--Rose coolly informs her trustee that the school was once the site of some illicit devil-worshipping--to ignite. And it does.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter relies on atmosphere and structure to scare us more than it uses gore, although if that’s what you’re after, you’ll find it here too. Like The Witch and The Babadook, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a Bechdel-approved, psychologically-intensive, bonafide and exemplary piece of atmospheric modern horror, and among the top ten must-sees of the genre this year.
- Brian L.
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