When it comes to horror genre fare, I’m the first person to rail against the overuse of the jump scare or other lazy techniques designed to get a quick, visceral reaction. Myself, and many others of the critical ilk, prefer tension and suspense. Or better yet – an atmospheric horror that seeps into dark crevasses of the psyche.
There’s a way for the pendulum to swing too far in the way of those aforementioned good things. When that happens, you get something that looks a lot like Oz Perkins’ “The Blackcoat’s Daughter,” a technically sound machine that feels overly programmed to the point of becoming inorganic. It’s overthought to the point of being overwrought, akin to a student thesis film. (Perhaps no coincidence that it marks Perkins’ directorial debut.)
Perkins’ film is all foreplay and very little fun. “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” weaves together two storylines of young women in peril, Emma Roberts’ Joan on the open road and Kiernan Shipka’s Kat in a suffocating religious environment. We eventually learn the reason their tales are intertwined, but … well, no spoilers. It’s half-decent because of a twist at the end. The journey there is quite tedious, filled with opportunities for true terror that too often go unconsummated. Perkins clearly has the brains for the genre. Hopefully he gains confidence to add in the nerves for it, too. C /