Review: The Blackcoat's Daughter

Director(s)Osgood Perkins
Principal CastEmma Roberts as Joan
Kiernan Shipka as Katherine
Lucy Boynton as Rose
Release Date2015
Running Time 93 minutes

This movie is not for people who like up front and immediate answers. It might frustrate some of you. For those of you like me, who love slow building and atmospheric horrors, look no further. The story follows the lives of three young women, connected by a series of events that you won’t be able to predict. One of the story threads follows Joan and Katherine, schoolgirls who both have found themselves left behind at their boarding school immediately after everyone else has left for Winter break. The former is a creepy freshmen with some serious quirks. The latter is a collected resourceful senior trying to deal with her own personal problems. The other thread follows Rose, a mysterious young women, looking for a ride to a destination city. Though both stories seem distinct, they both have that same ominous feeling that pervades and grows as the they intersect and interact with one another.

From the moment the movie starts, you know something is off. It’s a series of slightly strange scenes slowly followed by something just a bit more off. You can tell there’s something up but you can never tell exactly what that something is. This is compounded by the discombobulated story-lines which are cut and edited in a unique chronological order. It keeps you feeling disoriented but also makes the revelation of the mystery more satisfying. It’s not something you would normally expect, and the way the film subverts expectations is well deserved. Watching the movie a second time afterwards gives it a whole new eerie feeling and sense of appreciation for the way the story plays out. I know this all sounds ambiguous, but I don’t want to spoil the finer workings of each of the story-lines because the way that information is revealed is important to maintaining the shock value of the finer moments.

There are no cheap jump scares. Instead, there’s just an ominous sense of foreboding that culminates in the chaos that is the third act. The winter setting definitely helps create a sense of isolation. Everything is covered by a seemingly infinite snow. Information is never complete and understandings of situations become more nuanced. It’s masterful storytelling that focuses on showing rather than telling. The movie is all about the ways we try and find mind meaning in the face of a chaotic indeterminate universe. The way we try and find our place within it. What we’re willing to do to feel a sense of assuredness that we’re on the right path. These ideas all come together in fruitful ways, that can come off either nihilistic or existential depending on how you take it.

The performances from the three leads is something else. Roberts is great at being just creepy enough to cause concern but not so creepy that I get what she’s about. Shipka does a great job in being the quirky, awkward, and ominous Katherine. She strikes a balance between quirky and horrifying , which makes the way her arc develop that much more intriguing to watch. Boynton is great as Rose. She’s calm, confidant, grounded, and easier to understand than her counterparts. She’s a good anchor for the audience and keeps them level with the story. Each character is well defined, has a competent arc, and is interesting in their own right.

Report Card

TLDRIf you like slow paced, well built, psychological horrors that are eerie and evocative, you need to check this out. It starts off slow and might be confusing at first, but if you stick with it you’ll be rewarded with a truly one of a kind horror experience.
Grade A+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

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