Down a Dark Hall ★½

'Down a Dark Hall' has a promising horror lineage, being adapted from the work of young-adult author Lois Duncan – who also penned the source novel for 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' – and helmed by Rodrigo Cortés, director of the masterful man-in-a-box thriller 'Buried' (2010). However, the filmmaker’s latest feature is dispiritingly bland gothic nonsense, more concerned with gloomy atmosphere and trite adolescent angst than with creating a compelling story. Following an arson charge, teenage delinquent Kit (AnnaSophia Robb) is packed off to the sinister Blackwood Boarding School by her defeated parents. There, she and four other outcast girls are subjected to the creepy attentions of the faculty, who are determined to unearth their hidden talents, albeit for questionable purposess. The performances range from dull to campy – Uma Thurman hamming it up as the French headmistress is a So Bad It’s Good highlight – but the plot is reliably schematic and uninvolving, blending haunted-house and wizarding-school tropes to underwhelming effect.

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