The Blackcoat's Daughter (2015)
July 5, 2018 6:36 PM - Subscribe

In this bleak, atmospheric slow-burn of a horror film, two girls get left behind at their boarding school over winter break. Strange and unsettling things happen.

When their parents fail to pick them up, Rose, a senior, is asked to look after Kat, a freshman, but wants nothing to do with it. When Rose sneaks out on a date, Kat is left on her own, which appears to set some supernatural events in motion. We later cut to the story of Joan, a seemingly lost woman who may have escaped or been released from a hospital. As the film reaches its bloody conclusion, we learn how their stories tragically intertwine. Set in the winter in New England, The Blackcoat's Daughter touches on themes of isolation, abandonment, and shifting identities.
posted by treepour (8 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Bleak is exactly how I'd describe this as well. I thought it was very good but I needed a stuff drink afterwards. Or three. Not the feel good movie of the summer.

So it was exactly how I like them.
posted by Justinian at 11:24 PM on July 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

One thing that puzzled me immediately after watching it is that there was that the origin of the possession was never given. After reading a few explainers online, especially this one, I came to the conclusion that nothing supernatural is taking place. Kat is very seriously mentally ill, and we're seeing the world how she sees it. That's why there's no account given for the origin of her possession.

This analysis doesn't come to the same conclusion but casts the murder of Joan's parents as a failed attempt by Kat by reconnect with the only being she felt truly connected to. The furnace remains off and cold, despite her offering. Her sorrow at the end isn't just realizing the gravity of her crimes -- it's the realization that they were for nothing and she's still completely alone.

Those two thoughts together really made me find the film far more bleak and heartbreaking than when I first watched it.
posted by treepour at 8:12 AM on July 6, 2018

I think the second analysis is correct and is how I viewed the film. Whether or not Kat was actually possessed is obviously unanswerable but I prefer the interpretation that she was possessed (or at least highly influenced) by a supernatural entity. In my mind it adds to the tragedy and horror because it means that she was entirely responsible for the later murders despite being of completely sound mind at that point. Which isn't the case if she was seriously mentally ill throughout.

I'd like more horror films like this and fewer mediocre Conjuring/Insidious ripoffs.
posted by Justinian at 1:43 PM on July 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

If we're talking about responsibility and having a sound mind, I think a previous possession by an honest bygawsh demon might still absolve one from future erratic behavior somewhat.

Judge: "What was your crime?"
Sally Draper: "I killed people when I grew up."
Judge: "Were you crazy?"
Sally Draper: "Well... a demon actually possessed me and made me kill people when I was young."
Judge: "Did the demon return your mind to you intact with an inspection and receipt, and direct you to free post-possession trauma counseling?"
Sally Draper: [mumbles]
Judge: "The court finds the demon acted responsibly, all fault lies with the defendant." *gavel*

I do agree that I think the most interesting thing is that if she is "sane" at the end.

Having had mental illness myself (self-harm, not others, I hasten to add lol) I did think that it was a chilling portrayal at just, being unable to escape the trauma, being left not knowing what is real and what isn't or where one's identity stops. I don't think this movie was quote on Babadook levels of pure metaphor but not too far away.

Being in an institutional place after hours/time is always creepy as fuck and so this movie succeeded on that level.
posted by fleacircus at 5:48 PM on July 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't understand how Rose's parents didn't recognize Kat. Yes, it's been nine years since the murders and she's now 23/24 instead of 14/15, but they would very likely have seen her in court as well as the many pictures that would have been published of her during the time of the arrest/trial. Surely her features would have been seared on their memories.

And what happened to Kat's parents?
posted by orange swan at 6:08 PM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

This was my favourite horror movie the year it came out. Just revisited it after it featured heavily on quite a few Top 10 of the decade lists. It's entirely deserved and easily makes my top horror movies of all time.

It's a great horror story rooted in very human emotions of loneliness and grief. Some incredible, nuanced, mostly non-verbal performances from all of the three female leads. As a first film, it's incredible. And yes, bleak is putting it mildly though the very, very final beat of the movie might imply a "happy" ending for Kat.

On the point of Rose's parents not recognising Kat, it's implied that either trauma or something else is actively preventing them from seeing her as who she is. Another element playing into the "is it all psychological or is there something else at play." The wife says how her husband sees Rose in (or instead of) every girl they meet while she explicitly says "It's strange. I can't see you at all."

The last image of the film of Emma Roberts on the road covered in blood and crying is used for the poster and aside from being a good evocative image it holds a profoundly different meaning than expected when seen in the context of the film.
posted by slimepuppy at 11:28 AM on December 26, 2019

Coming to this years later, my read of the ending is that her murders of Rose's parents were an offering that did not work. Her abandoment is total... the force that gave her strength and power (though put to horrendous use) has discarded her.
posted by kokaku at 12:46 PM on June 6

So somehow I totally this movie until this year. Tubi and Max kept suggesting it, and I had insomnia last night so I was tired and gave in.

Growing up in a place very much like the setting, I could really feel the cold, isolation, and gloom. To that end, many prefer the original title for the film February. I suspect the Blackcoat's Daughter became the title courtesy of alphastacking. I definitely prefer the title February myself as I'm very familiar with the bleak feeling that month can provoke when it feels that Spring will never come. And for Kat it never does.

The story reminds me of the novel the Haunting of Hill House in which a disturbed isolated woman possibly forms a relationship with a malevolent entity or might just be in the throes of a psychotic break. Whether it's supernatural or not, it's still horrifying. It's pretty impressive filmmaking to have a character who murders those around her so brutally still be ultimately sympathetic. A lot of that goes to the strength of Kiernan Shipka (Totally Killer) and Emma Roberts in their portrayals of Kat and Joan. But this atmospheric winter horror with strong performances is definitely going on my list of movies I will watch again.

That this was Oz Perkins directorial debut is even more impressive. Unfortunately, his subsequent films I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House and Hansel and Gretel did not come close to the achievement of this movie.
posted by miss-lapin at 11:04 AM on November 14

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