I’ve been waiting to write this since the moment I got to the end of Oz Perkins’ The Blackcoat’s Daughter!
If you haven’t seen the movie and are wondering why I should focus my attention on a motion picture that grossed only $20,435 worldwide, check out my spoiler-free take on the movie, since I’m now about to spoil the hell out of this complex film in the next few paragraphs.
In my opinion, The Blackcoat’s Daughter works perfectly both as a mystery horror film and as a drama saturated with a potent subtext.
In regards to the mystery, this aspect of the movie turns out well on two levels: the first one revolves around identity disclosure; the second level is about motive and it’s directly connected to the greater meaning of the film.
So, as I said in my spoiler-free review, we have three female leads in The Blackcoat’s Daughter – Kat, Rose and Joan. Perkins does a fantastic job at casting three actresses that look alike and the makeup team impressively enhances these physical similarities throughout the runtime. Thanks to the non-linear storytelling and the tricks connected to the theme of time, later on in the movie is made clear that Joan is Kat, only 9 years later and with a different identity that she somewhat got in possession of.
In the movie is then unveiled that Kat has killed Rose and the two nuns who looked after them in the Catholic school; whereas Joan (aka Kat, 9 years later) has butchered Rose’s parents after they helped her going back to the old school – being, obviously, unaware about who she was.
Here we get to the second mystery of The Blackcoat’s Daughter, the one revolving around the motivation of those killings. Throughout the movie is progressively made evident that Kat is possessed by the devil. However, when the evil entity abandons her in consequence of an exorcism, after she killed three people, Kat/Joan is desperately in search of something that could fill the void in her soul, which is apparently the reason why she kills Rose’s parents many years after the events that occurred in the school.
Therefore, the meaning of the movie appears evident to me at this point: The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a story about abandonment. The film keeps this subtext under wraps but hints to it from the very beginning, from the title in fact.
As a non-English native speaker, I didn’t know that ‘blackcoat’ is a derogatory term for priest or man of church. However, in this case the blackcoat seems to be the devil himself, since it’s depicted in the movie as an awkward and indistinguishable dark figure covered by, you guessed it, a black coat (made of fur, I believe).
Towards the beginning of the film, Kat is left in the school over the winter holidays by her parents, thus she becomes an easy target for the devil, which uses the girl’s void to meander into her. However, after an exorcism (executed in an impressively subtle and effective way) liberates the teenager, Kat feels alone and depressed, instead of perceiving herself as finally free.
After 9 years of what, we could imagine, has been a life filled with sadness and sorrow, Kat/Joan sees killing Rose’s parents (who she met randomly) as the only chance to connect again with her sole companion: the devil. Her failure, at the very end of this amazing dark tale, only enhances the despair and conveys a truly disturbing, depressing feeling to the audience.
If you pay close attention throughout the film, you’d notice that every scene involving Kat – from the moment her parents don’t show up to pick her up from school – conceals subtle, minute hints of the devil’s presence in the teenager’s life. On the contrary, when Kat is adult and has changed her name to Joan, this presence had completely disappeared and the young woman’s loneliness is underlined in every single shot she’s part of.
In conclusion, The Blackcoat’s Daughter twists the possession sub-genre around and explores the human feelings that lead to one of the most famous paranormal occurrences. It’s an extremely smart movie that could easily disappoint many viewers (especially if you’re only used to cookie cutter Hollywood flicks) and could also be perceived as pretentious. And I’d understand that, but only to a certain extent.
It’s also not a flawless film, as I pointed out in my previous review about it. Nevertheless, The Blackcoat’s Daughter had a strong impact on me and I’ll make sure to watch it again soon! If you’ve seen the film and have other theories about its meaning, please don’t hesitate to share them with me: that way, we could have an interesting discussion about a great work of art! Cheers!