“Black­coat’s Daugh­ter” a so- so story

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CUL­TURE - By Michael O’Sul­li­van TheWash­ing­ton Post

As with Os­good Perkins’s creep­ily at­mo­spheric ghost story “I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House” ( avail­able on Net­flix), the ac­tor- turned- film­maker’s the­atri­cally re­leased slasher flick, “The Black­coat’s Daugh­ter,” is a vis­ually strik­ing mas­ter­piece of mood and care­fully cal­i­brated sto­ry­telling.

If only its tech­ni­cal gifts, like those of its pre­de­ces­sor, were in ser­vice of a bet­ter— or at least more orig­i­nal— story.

Set in a pri­vate girls’ board­ing school in up­state New York, “Black­coat” be­gins by in­tro­duc­ing us to two girls: wall­flower high school fresh­man Kat ( Kier­nan Shipka of “MadMen” ) and pretty, con­fi­dent up­per­class­woman Rose ( Lucy Boyn­ton of “Sing Street”).

Stranded over win­ter break by par­ents who have failed to pick them up— in Rose’s case be­cause she de­lib­er­ately gave them the wrong date, to break the news to her boyfriend ( Peter J. Gray) that she might be preg­nant— the girls are thrown to­gether for a week, with min­i­mal su­per­vi­sion.

In short or­der, strange things be­gin to hap­pen, mostly in­volv­ing Kat, who be­haves like­many a hor­ror- movie child pro­tag­o­nist, smil­ing enig­mat­i­cally, vom­it­ing up a milky sub­stance and, at least ap­par­ently, sleep­walk­ing in the scary dor­mi­tory base­ment.

A pay phone rings omi­nously, with mys­te­ri­ous static, and more, on the other end, and the steam heat­ing sys­tem pro­duces un­earthly noises.

The film’s min­i­mal­ist score, cour­tesy of the writer- di­rec­tor’s brother Elvis Perkins, is at times in­dis­tin­guish­able from such am­bi­ent sounds as the buzz of flu­o­res­cent lights.

The com­poser, who also worked on “Pretty Thing,” has also set an old nurs­ery rhyme to mu­sic — per­formed by Kat, in a cam­pus tal­ent show that opens the film— lend­ing the film its po­et­i­cally am­bigu­ous ti­tle.

( Orig­i­nally called “Fe­bru­ary,” the movie pre­dates “Pretty Thing” and be­gan mak­ing the rounds of film fes­ti­vals in 2015.)

Mean­while, in a par­al­lel story line that the film­maker grad­u­ally weaves into the nar­ra­tive, a young fe­male hitch­hiker ( an ever so slightly cata­tonic Emma Roberts) is shown mak­ing her way to­ward the school, with the as­sis­tance of a kindly mid­dle- aged trav­eler and his less kindly dis­posed wife ( James Re­mar and Lau­ren Holly), the lat­ter of whom ap­pears to be har­bor­ing some se­cret re­sent­ment.

What all this adds up to is a mount­ing sense of ex­quis­ite dread. Al­though very lit­tle hap­pens in the way of tra­di­tional hor­ror­movie jump- scares, “Black­coat” builds and builds to­ward a pro­foundly dis­qui­et­ing sense that some­thing re­ally bad is com­ing.

And come it does, with a dis­ap­point­ingly fa­mil­iar and gra­tu­itously vi­o­lent third- act re­veal that is all the more of a let­down be­cause of the strength and nu­ance of what came be­fore, and how spar­ingly the film’s clues have been parceled out.

Os­good Perkins, who has had small sup­port­ing roles on TV and in such films as “Star Trek,” now has two movies un­der his belt that prove where his real tal­ents lie: be­hind the cam­era. If he can get his hands on— or one day write— some bet­ter ma­te­rial, he will be a real force to be reck­oned with.

Petr Maur, A24

Kier­nan Shipka in “The Black­coat’s Daugh­ter.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.