The Blackcoat’s Daughter (February)

Nestled in the country is an all girls Catholic boarding school. Two girls end up stranded at their school during break when they are the only two whose parents fail to pick them up. The girls begin to experience strange happenings in this cold, secluded school. Elsewhere, a young woman is doing whatever she can to get to that same boarding school. As the web that connects these three girls becomes unraveled, it soon becomes clear there is something sinister at work.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (formerly known as February) was a huge accomplishment for first time directer Osgood Perkins. This is the kind of horror film that has such an atmospheric presence. You often know bad things are coming – sometimes you even know what those bad things are – yet when the moment finally happens, it is no less shocking or terrifying. Perkins, who also wrote the film, does an excellent job of revealing different plot points in a way that isn’t necessarily chronological, but in an order that helps you to understand more of the story when it is important. There are elements of a traditional devil/possession horror film present, but much of the way it is presented feels fresh. It is clear from the beginning that this film focuses more on the characters involved and creating a feeling of impending doom, rather than traditional scares. In this regard, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a masterpiece.

The three female leads in this film were incredibly strong. Keirnan Shipka (Mad Men) was absolutely haunting as Kat, the youngest of the two girls at the boarding school. As you can see from the trailer, Shipka’s portrayal of Kat moves from a lonely innocence to deeply disturbed during the course of the film. Lucy Boynton (Copperhead) was also amazing as the other girl stranded at the school, Rose. What I loved about Boynton as Rose was that she was a bit of a bad girl, but she was incredibly relatable at the same time. You felt for Rose and cared about her well being. I will be completely honest, generally I am not a huge fan of Emma Roberts (Scream Queens, We’re the Millers). Despite this, I still thought she did a great job as the mysterious Joan. Joan is clearly broken in some way and has been through a lot in her life. Roberts conveys this aspect of Joan quite well. All three actresses stood out and drew me into their individual stories.

This is the kind of film where the evil is almost entirely working behind the scenes. There are only a couple small glimpses where you see the entity that is pulling the strings. I loved the look that the filmmakers went for. The evil in The Blackcoat’s Daughter has a look that is generally familiar in the world of devil worship and possession, but they made some small tweaks to give it a bit more unique look. I also thought it was smart for the evil entity to never really be in full view; it’s shown as more of just a shadow or silhouette. In a film like this where ambience reigns over frightening imagery, keeping the evil in the background was a wise decision.

When I didn’t get a chance to see this film at Cinequest, I was devastated. Luckily it was picked up by the Phoenix Film Festival. The way the stories of the two high school girls and the wandering young woman unravel was done in such a stunning way that it leaves your heart on the floor. The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a haunting tale that breaths new life into the idea of possession and the loss of innocence. By the time the credits rolled I felt stunned and awestruck. What was great about the feelings the ending invoked was that many people I spoke with got the same feeling, even though I interpreted the ending a different way than others did. No matter what you think the final scene conveys, it will still effect you in ways you didn’t expect. While I can see horror fans that prefer more scares and gore not enjoying this film as much, people who love films for the way they make you feel will not be disappointed. If this film comes to a theater near you, do not pass it up.

OVERALL RATING: 9.5/10

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6 comments

  1. I enjoyed the movie, I was even frightened at certain points of the movie, but for the life of me I did not understand what was going on.
    Especially regarding Joan.
    There is a single scene that pops up in Joan’s journey to the school, a brief edit that shows someone strangling someone from behind. The scene lasts about 15 seconds.
    What was that about?
    Also, near the end of the movie, I realized that the characters and the scenes were not necessarily in chronological order, and that Joan’s events are happening some years after the the other events taking place, but still I don’t understand why she is doing what she is doing in the movie. I mean, why?
    Sometimes a movie works very well when you leave it up to the audience to interpret events, and to leave an ending vague and obscure, but I don’t like it in this case.
    I am not stupid and I generally understand what I am watching but this movie just left way too much for us to figure out on our own and I cannot figure out if it was intended to be that way or if it is just bad writing and directing.
    I don’t want to spoil it for others so I will say no more about the plot, but wth did I just watch?

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    1. [CONTAINS SPOILERS] Hi Russell. I appreciate you taking the time to ask your questions and giving me your thoughts on the film! It’s been a little while since I saw Blackcoat’s Daughter, but I will do my best to answer all of your questions.

      First with regards to the name. Blackcoat is another name for a clergyman, which I think is a play on words that references Kat’s relationship with the demon/devil and the priest that runs the school.

      Kat and Joan are the same person. After Kat killed Rose and the sisters, then is exercised by the priest, she went to an insane asylum. When we meet her again it is years later and she has escaped the asylum and taken on the name Joan (they show her at one point with the stolen ID with that name on it). She happens to meet Rose’s parents on her way back to the school where it all began. She clearly is trying to get back to the school for the anniversary of her earlier killings. The few seconds you see of someone getting strangled from behind, if I remember correctly, is Joan killing Rose’s parents so she can leave their heads as an offering just like she did with Rose and the sisters. Now the why is kind of left to your interpretation (a couple people I saw the movie with had a different explanation than I did), but I will tell you how I saw it. When the priest exercises the demon from Kat you see her look at the demon and say “don’t go.” She knew she was alone in the world (since they imply her parents died on their way to pick her up) and that the demon was all she had. She travels back to the school (as Joan) on the anniversary and provides a new sacrifice in hopes of bringing the demon back to her again. After all that nothing happens and you see her alone in the snow with blood on her hands and crying because she realizes she is truly alone and she killed those people for nothing.

      I hope that was helpful and answered all of your questions!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m a bit late to the game here, but I just finished watching the movie. I think I have an explanation for the quick strangulation flashback. The scene where we see “Joan” in the hotel bathroom, we see a flashback of her strangling a woman, and then an image of a stolen ID with the name “Joan” and a picture of the woman she strangled. I believe Joan was a nurse at the asylum, and after Katherine strangled her, she stole the ID, and her name, before escaping.

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      2. (CONTAINS SPOILERS): Yep…this is how I saw it…although Thea (below) gets that brief 15 second strangulation explanation correct. Joan’s journey is 9 years later from the original murders. The main clue for me that Kat and Joan are the same person is the bullet hole on her left shoulder which you see healed on Joan’s back before her shower in the hotel (the cop shoots Kat later in the film). There are probably other clues to underline this..but I would have to watch again to spot them.

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  2. Ok, now the ending makes sense. I got confused because Kat and Joan look nothing alike. Yes I saw the bullit hole and the hair was similar but the actresses features have nothing in common. Come on. Maybe if the Directer had used Kats actress and just aged her a bit I would have gotten to the same conclusion as the person above. Thus, a very disappointing ending for me. Too confusing.

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