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NY TIMES Review: ‘The Blackcoat’s Daughter’ Is Bewitching and Bloody

NY TIMES Review: ‘The Blackcoat’s Daughter’ Is Bewitching and Bloody

Playing out in gloomy interiors and frigid exteriors, “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” is a stealth weapon. Slow and seductive and deliberately vague, this deeply unsettling tale of lost parents and troubled daughters exudes atmosphere while hoarding facts. Yet the movie is so perfectly acted and gorgeously filmed (the cinematographer is Julie Kirkwood) that we don’t mind its coyness; the twanging notes of trepidation make us almost grateful for the leisurely build.

In an isolated Roman Catholic boarding school for girls, Kat (Kiernan Shipka, all grown up from her role as Sally Draper in “Mad Men”) and Rose (Lucy Boynton) are left alone during midterm break. Neither set of parents, for reasons not immediately clear, has arrived to pick them up, and their only company is two strange female teachers. In another location — and perhaps another timeline — a third girl (Emma Roberts), who may have escaped from a mental hospital, is given a ride by a grieving couple (James Remar and Lauren Holly). All three narratives will converge, but not before a great deal of blood has been spilled.

The directing debut of Osgood Perkins (son of Anthony Perkins), “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” bewitches with silky-smooth camera movements and a rolling, reverberating musical score (by Elvis Perkins, the director’s brother). Yes, it’s a horror movie (the murder scenes suggest that the director has watched “Psycho” more than once), but even its most brutal acts pulse with inchoate sadness. Deceptively simple scenes — like a stunning, slow-motion shot of Rose posing for her school photograph — insinuate a wealth of information, but the movie doesn’t hanker to be understood. It just wants your surrender.