Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Brutal Bloody Violence and brief Strong Language
Directed by: Oz Perkins
Written by: Oz Perkins
Starring: Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Boynton, James Remar & Lauren Holly
Oz Perkins is an up-and-coming horror filmmaker who already seems to have gained a following of fans. There are those who love Oz’s vague narratives and stylish sensibilities, while there are others who find him to be overrated and don’t really dig on his stuff. I have yet to see I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE, but I was very excited to check out THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER. I’d heard many things about this film (previously titled FEBRUARY) from festival showings and was eagerly awaiting to review it for the Halloween season. Though this indie horror effort has lots of dread-soaked atmosphere to spare, the overall film left me with mixed reactions.
BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER is split into three different perspectives, each one following one of three girls. Kat (Kiernan Shipka) and Rose (Lucy Boynton) are two students who have been stranded at a Catholic boarding school over the winter break. While Rose waits for her parents to arrive, Kat begins to suspect that her own parents might not be arriving at all. Rose tries to freak Kat out with stories of satanic rituals that supposedly took place at the school. All the while, escaped mental patient Joan (Emma Roberts) is heading towards the school for some unknown reason. Slow-burn spookiness, some creepy demonic imagery, and non-linear storytelling ensues.
BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER has a premise that immediately caught my attention because non-linear narratives can be used fantastically in horror films. However, DAUGHTER reveals major twists way too soon and was easy to predict from that certain scene onwards. These plot revelations would have been much better if they had been saved as shocking puzzle pieces for the third act. Oz Perkins’s approach to telling this story in three separate narratives seems like it was merely a tool to cover up just how simple, basic, and underwhelming the entire script really is. There are cool ideas here and there, but they’re rarely capitalized on in a haunting way.
The performances range across the board as well. Kiernan Shipka is creepy as can be, while Lucy Boynton seems to serve as the typical horror heroine personality and has a subplot involving possible pregnancy. Boynton’s character’s storyline seems to have inherent tragedy contained within it, but (again) I feel that Oz Perkins failed to capitalize on this in a way that shook the viewer. Meanwhile, James Remar is a welcomed presence in the role of a “Good Samaritan” priest and every one of his scenes stands out in a positive way. Emma Roberts also kept me on the edge of my seat until a scene that immediately made me lose interest in her character.
If there’s any quality that BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER nails perfectly, it’s an evil atmosphere. There’s an undeniably sinister feeling that accompanies this entire film. The dark setting, a few eerie visuals, and a slow-burn approach all helped this dread-soaked feeling move throughout the running time, including points where the plot became too predictable and vague for its own good. Even when the so-so acting and bland writing kept rearing their ugly heads, I found myself hooked into the film purely for the spooky atmosphere that made me want to see what would happen next.
I don’t want to sound like I’m trashing THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER, because it’s not a bad film. This movie’s atmosphere is rock solid and it contains two great performances. Unfortunately, the film also seems a bit too simple/vague for its own good and the non-linear narrative only seems to exist to try to cover that up. If you dig Oz Perkins’s style, you’ll probably find something to enjoy here. If you’re normally not a fan of slow-burn indie horror, you’ll probably hate this flick. As for me, I find THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER to be a mixed bag with great qualities that kept me watching and poor qualities that dragged the entire film down.