Boarding School ★★½

An improbable amalgamation of myriad subgenres – queer-flavored coming-of-age tale, Brothers Grimm nightmare, gruesome thriller, post-Holocaust ghost story – 'Boarding School' is a frustratingly messy film, but that shagginess has an unexpectedly mesmerizing quality. Writer-director Boaz Yakin takes his time in establishing a mournful, faintly menacing mood, observing as troubled tween Jacob ('Eighth Grade'’s Luke Pael, appealingly inscrutable) grapples with bullying, nightmares, and transgender twinges linked to his late grandmother. Eventually, his parents ship Jacob off to an eccentric boarding school for misfit kids, overseen by the amiably sadistic, Bible-thumping Dr. Sherman (Will Patton). Enjoyably weird but ruinously unfocused, 'Boarding School' is miles from Yakin’s usual feel-good fare ('Remember the Titans', 'Max'), and it often feels as if the filmmaker is trying to cram too many concepts into a narrative container that is too conventional and constrictive to accommodate them all. The film’s retrograde depictions of disability leave a noticeably bad taste, but overall 'Boarding School' is more of an overly ambitious curiosity than an outright failure.