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Down a Dark Hall (2018) - Movie Review

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Down a Dark Hall - Movie Review

3 stars

Novelist Lois Duncan was way ahead of her time.  It is as if she had her finger on the pulse of all tomorrow’s youth, paving the way for the Young Adult movement in literature.  Seriously.  While everyone else was all Savannah Smiles-like, Duncan was pumping out speculative fiction with a horror twist that was helping to usher in a new wave of highly imaginative and dark fiction. 

And Down a Dark Hall is her first and, as far as I know, only stab at Gothic fiction.  It is now, thanks to the performances of Uma Thurman as Madame Duret, the eccentric headmistress of Blackwood Boarding School, and AnnaSophia Robb as Katherine "Kit" Gordy, the school’s new arrival, Duncan’s latest film adaptation.  For anyone already suspect of school and its hidden agenda, this is the film for you.  

"builds its story nicely and never insults its target audience with expected situations, even while it follows similar tropes"


As an author, Duncan wasn’t afraid to tack the supernatural in her stories.  Her work, featuring such classics as Hotel for Dogs, I Know What You Did Last SummerSummer of Fear, and Killing Mr. Griffin, ran the gamut from horror to thriller and straight up mystery and beyond.  Buried’s director, Rodrigo Cortés, takes her tale of supernatural Gothicism and cloaks its mystery inside an atmospheric thriller that Summit Entertainment has released to theaters and through video-on-demand services just this wek.

The results are brooding and dark and extremely expressive as Blackwood, appearing trapped in time, opens its doors to a group of new (but troubled) students.  Down a Dark Hall, about Kit and four other female students' – including Victoria Moroles as Veronica, Isabelle Fuhrman as Izzy, Taylor Russell as Ashley, and Rosie Day as Sierra – spooky stay at this boarding school, is absolutely dripping with dark imagination; there are dark spirits here.  There have to be.  This film, thanks to its gorgeous lens, feels like a very oppressive version of Harry Potter.

These students are wise to not trust their surroundings or their teachers - even if they want to.  There is something evil at play here and it will take a force of nature to halt its progression. 

The girls are invited to embrace their talents and, thanks to the atmosphere, they absolutely do improve their piano playing and their artistic abilities – until they realize that, tucked within the winding corridors of the school, are the real reasons for their expanding talents.  The paranormal is alive and well here and, with shadows taking shape, the ghost that haunts this building, is all about using them as a vehicle through which to return by. And it is – just like the forceful ways of Miss Olonsky (Rebecca Front) – tearing the girls apart.

With secrets to uncover leading the charge in this mystery, Down a Dark Hall is a well-crafted moody film.  It can be silly as the girls and their talents quickly lend themselves to actual possession, but – for its intended audience – the film should work well enough to remain engaged.  Even if some of the performances from the girls go from calm to caterwauling all too soon, the adaptation plays toward Duncan’s original novel nicely. 

Filmed in Spain and artfully shot by cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, the film weaves a wicked spell in its 90-minutes.  Fans of the novel will be thankful that the screenplay follows much of Duncan’s original plot.  Others will be enamored by the fantastical trappings of the school and its suspicious teachers.Down a Dark Hall - Movie Review

The thriller works, as an adaptation, because, like the format of a book, there are new surprises revealed with each page turned.  As the minutes tick by, we are kept engaged as more of the mystery is revealed.  Down a Dark Hall builds its story nicely and never insults its target audience with expected situations, even while it follows similar tropes.

With the release of Down a Dark Hall, Blackwood Boarding School has officially opened its doors to the public.

Down a Dark Hall - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic content, terror and violence, some language including a sexual reference, and smoking.
Runtime:
96 mins
Director
: Rodrigo Cortés
Writer:
 Michael Goldbach Chris Sparling
Cast:
AnnaSophia Robb, Uma Thurman, Isabelle Fuhrman
Genre
: Drama | Thriller
Tagline:
Down a Dark hallway
Memorable Movie Quote: 
Theatrical Distributor:
Lionsgate Premiere
Official Site:
Release Date:
August 17, 2018
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: Kit (AnnaSophia Robb), a difficult young girl, is sent to the mysterious Blackwood Boarding School when her heated temper becomes too much for her mother to handle. Once she arrives at Blackwood, Kit encounters eccentric headmistress Madame Duret (Uma Thurman) and meets the school’s only other students, four young women also headed down a troubled path. While exploring the labyrinthine corridors of the school, Kit and her classmates discover that Blackwood Manor hides an age-old secret rooted in the paranormal.

Down a Dark Hall - Movie Review

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