Written by J. Weagle
Abandoned as a child. Raised by the dark.
In some ways horror films are currently in a new golden age. The 1980’s had the rise of the cheese ball gore fest movies, while the 1990’s saw the rise of the teen scream slashers. Most of the early part of the 2000’s were dominated by the wave of the Japanese horror influences, and then horror sort of lost it’s identity a bit. The past few years however have helped shaped our current horror landscape with some masterclass films such as, It Follows, and The Witch. What those films showed is that horror doesn’t always have to be jump scares or gross out scenes of violence. Horror doesn’t need tiny dead ghost children lurking over your bed or walls of murder weapons. No, when done correctly and in the right hands horror stories can be the most simple basic stories in all of film. I’m happy to say that The Blackcoat’s Daughter (previously known as February) is one of those great moody masterpieces that seem tailored made for people to either love it or hate it.
The directorial debut of Osgood Perkins, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is set during winter break and follows the students of Bradford Academy as they are getting ready to leave and join their families for the holidays. That is except for Kat (Kiernan Shipka) and Rose (Lucy Boynton) who are forced to wait a few extra days for the arrival of their parents who fail to retrieve them on time. This sets up a truly terrifying film that lingers in a mood of dread for the entirety of its ninety minute run time.The first thing that is truly brilliant about The Blackcoat’s Daughter is how Perkins uses the camera to tell a story of dread and uneasiness. The entire time, almost immediately we can sense that something is not right, before any of the shit starts hitting the fan, thanks to some incredible dark cinematography and almost methodical shot techniques on par with some great 1970’s filmmakers. This is seriously one of the most well directed horror films to come around in awhile, right up there with The Witch, as both films use lingering as a way of warning the viewers. In fact this film shares many similarities with The Witch in how the story is presented, so if you were a fan of that film you’ll find a very similar vibe here.
My favorite thing about The Blackcoat’s Daughter however is just how simplistic it is. That’s not to say it isn’t a layered film, as it can become a bit hard to follow at times during the end. Characters will not spoon feed the audience clues or hints, the film asks that you pay attention and rewards you for doing so. It opens many questions and for the most part answers none of them but yet somehow I still feel satisfied, which is the hallmark of a terrific film.
The entire cast does an amazing job delivering haunting yet subtle performances with the standout for me being Kiernan Shipka (best known for Mad Men) who completely steals every scene she is in with her eyes alone. You’ll pity her, feel worried for her and fear her all at the same time and I doubt she will get the credit she deserves. The other standout being Emma Roberts who plays a part that we are not used to seeing from her, trading her bitchy Scream Queens character in for a layered and devilish role and some of the best work we have seen from her yet.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter is exactly the kind of horror film I look for. It presents a dark moody atmosphere and doesn’t treat me like a child or a complete moron incapable of figuring things out on my own. I understand that many will hate this film (similar to how many hate It Follows and The Witch) for its slow burn type approach, but there is no denying both Perkins’ ability to tell a story and the incredible tone this film has. Don’t expect Satan to jump out of the shadows or tiresome cheap scares because there is absolutely none of that to be found here. What you get is a very intriguing plot, some great performances and one of the best possession films ever made.