Oz Perkins’ journey into the reimagination of horror sub-genres has led him to create The Blackcoat’s Daughter, originally released in 2015 under the name February and widely distributed a few months ago with the current title.
In 2016, Perkins had already raised some controversy with I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, a 19th century period drama (I’d say) that twisted the “haunted house” sub-genre around and created quite some buzz.
Similarly to Pretty Thing, The Blackcoat’s Daughter flew under the radar this year. The main reason is that it’s a hardly marketable film, considering its distance from conventional horror. Which is why, before I delve into Perkin’s movie, I want to suggest it to you if you enjoyed movies as Let the Right One In (2008) Goodnight Mommy (2014) and The Witch (2016).
In a little upstate New York town, a prestigious Catholic school for girls is closing for winter holidays. Everybody goes home to their family, besides Kat and Rose, whose parents are late for pick-up. Rose seems to be waiting on a secret date; whereas Kat’s parents just don’t show up, seemingly upsetting her quite a lot.
The two teenagers, left behind, deal with their own issues under the supervision of two nuns. Meanwhile, a third storyline about an apparently deranged girl named Joan (Emma Roberts) coincides with the events regarding Kat and Rose. All the puzzle pieces are now on the table and, as the film progresses, it’s up to the viewer to solve it.
Since the puzzle/mystery of The Blackcoat’s Daughter is the most interesting part of the movie, I can’t go any further into the plot. In fact, I think you’d better watch and experience this film completely blind.
That way, it will be a blast!
Yes, I instantly loved The Blackcoat’s Daughter, for many reasons. Firstly, the atmosphere the film creates is simply outstanding: although this motion picture is extremely minimalistic (simple cinematography, steady shots, plain and dull colours…), the look and feel is constantly dreadful and uneasy.
Part of that is due to the soundtrack, created by the director’s brother Elvis Perkins, which is easily my favourite score of 2017, in regards to horror films. The music of The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a character in itself and makes every scene unnerving, despite the lack of action.
Another reason why I felt so enthralled by the film is the characters: the three female leads are amazing, especially Kat (Kiernan Brennan Shipka) whose subtlety enhances the creepiness of every scene she’s in. Emma Roberts gives the best performance of her career and Lucy Boynton (Rose) is equally fantastic. Plus, experienced actors such as Lauren Holly and James Remar, in supporting roles, give great performances that make even those secondary scenes effective.
Yet, as I mentioned before, the aspect of mystery is what makes the film so great. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, therefore, I’ll remain vague. Let’s just put it this way: it revolves around characters’ identity and unconventional interpretations of certain features, typical of the supernatural horror sub-genre. In the build-up to and execution of said puzzle, the movie never cheats on the audience. Sure, The Blackcoat’s Daughter utilises traps and diversions to confuse the viewer, but if you pay close attention to every moment of the movie (watch out for specific elements like outfits, time and background figures) it all adds up eventually.
As per flaws, I think the first 20 minutes or so of the movie are unnecessarily ‘artsy’, with slow-motions that top up the already sloth-like pace of the story. This might bother some viewers, although it didn’t bug me whatsoever.
Furthermore, the dialogues are extremely elongated and make me just go like: “Dude, just reply as a normal human being would and get it over with!”. This is, actually, my only real complaint towards Perkins’ film and, although it might sound like a minor issue, it took me out of the movie quite often, which is a shame.
Nevertheless, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is an amazing motion picture, a great addition to the psychological/paranormal horror sub-genre and a criminally overlooked work of art that you should check out straight away. So, let’s waste no time: go watch the movie and I’ll make sure to see it again soon. Cheers!