Saturday, October 7, 2017

#2,437. The Blackcoat's Daughter (2015)

Directed By: Oz Perkins

Starring: Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Boynton

Tag line: "Abandoned as a child. Raised by the dark"

Trivia:  When co-star Emma Roberts read the script for the movie, she couldn't sleep afterwards because it scared her so much

We realize early on in The Blackcoat’s Daughter that something terrible is going to happen. From the word “go”, writer / director Osgood Perkins (son of Psycho’s Anthony Perkins) infuses his film with a sense of dread, yet also manages to pique our curiosity. A tragedy is about to rock the girl’s school at the center of this 2015 horror movie, and we are more than willing to sit patiently and watch it play out.

It’s the end of February, which means it is break time for the students at Bramford Academy, an all-girls Catholic boarding school situated in upstate New York. Most of the young ladies are picked up by their parents and head home to enjoy a week-long vacation, but when the last car pulls away, Rose (Lucy Boynton) and Kat (Kiernan Shipka) have been left behind.

The headmaster, Mr. Gordon (Peter James Haworth), is unable to contact the girls’ parents, and assumes they are either on their way or got the dates mixed up. So, until their families arrive, Rose and Kat must remain at Bramford, where Miss Drake (Heather Tod Mitchell) and Miss Prescott (Elana Krausz), two nuns who reside at the school, will look after them.

But their parents aren’t coming. Rose, it turns out, purposefully told her mother and father the wrong date, so she could break the news to her boyfriend Rick (Peter Grey) that she’s pregnant. As for Kat, she had a vivid dream of her parents being killed in a car accident, and is convinced they are no longer alive. Kat takes it all in stride, though, thanks to the new “friend” she's made at Bramford, an invisible entity that whispers in her ear, telling her to do very, very bad things.

Meanwhile, a girl named Joan (Emma Roberts) climbs off a bus and is immediately approached by the kindly Bill (James Remar), who offers her a ride. Bill informs her that he and his wife Linda (Lauren Holly) travel to the New York area every year around this time, and he would be more than happy to take Joan wherever she wants to go. Joan says she is heading to Portsmouth, but to get there, they will have to pass through Bramford…

With its dual storylines, The Blackcoat’s Daughter weaves a fairly perplexing mystery. Throughout the movie, we wonder how these two separate tales will intersect, and if Joan is somehow connected to either Kat or Rose. Perkins does eventually fill in some of the blanks (one major twist is revealed early on, perhaps a bit earlier than it should have been), but as with any good mystery, the filmmaker doesn’t lay all of his cards on the table until the very end. And trust me when I tell you, that final surprise is a doozy!

All three of the film’s young leads are excellent in their respective roles. Though her character remains an enigma through much of the movie, Emma Roberts manages to make us care about the obviously disturbed Joan (we’re led to believe she escaped from a mental facility). And while Lucy Boynton’s Rose is, at the start, a typical, self-obsessed teenager (ignoring Mr. Gordon’s instructions, she leaves Kat by herself one night to visit her boyfriend), she soon realizes something is very wrong with her young schoolmate, and becomes genuinely concerned for Kat’s well-being.

The standout performance, however, is delivered by Kiernan Shipka, whose character has made a pact with a frightening entity. From her very first scene, we sense that Kat can see things the others cannot. While meeting with the school’s resident priest (played by Greg Ellwand), she glances out the window and smiles, as if acknowledging a friend. But there is nobody there. 

At times an inquisitive teenager (she is intrigued when Rose repeats a rumor that Miss Drake and Miss Prescott were spotted one evening performing a satanic ritual), Kat is also the most frightening character in the film, a young girl who not only befriends an evil spirit, but happily invites it to possess her body. Though only 15 at the time, Shipka delivers a performance that would make any actress with 20+ years experience green with envy.

All this, combined with the film's wintry setting (the weather itself doesn’t figure prominently in the story, but there’s a general feeling of isolation that goes hand-in-hand with a snowy landscape) as well as some good music (provided by Elvis Perkins, Osgood’s brother) and several truly shocking scenes, do their part to make The Blackcoat’s Daughter one of the finest horror films of the year.

In fact, when we close the books on 2017, I'm damn certain that The Blackcoat’s Daughter will rank high on my top 10 list.

1 comment:

Mike said...

How have I never even heard of this movie? It sounds like something I'd actually like, and you may disagree but I find Emma Roberts' unique acting style enticing. Thanks for the recommendation.

[Mike's Cinema]