The Blackcoat's Daughter
Oh my, dear readers! I know it's been awhile since I last posted a review, but I was fighting off strep and bronchitis. Good times all around, let me tell you. The bad news: my brain wasn't much use for writing very much during this time, hence the long delay. The good news: I spent five days doing nothing more than eating Popsicles and oatmeal, and watching horror films. So I have a backlog of reviews to get out!
When I hopped over to Amazon streaming - between wracking coughs - I was thrilled to see that The Blackcoat's Daughter was finally available stateside. I had heard a lot about the film (mostly good things) after it made the rounds at film festivals last year, under the title February. So I was excited to see what was in store.
I have to say...The Blackcoat's Daughter is an odd little film. There's a sort of messiness to the whole thing that I would ALMOST call a commitment to style over substance. That's not quite right because the film's not flashy in any sense. But it's the closest I can get to explaining how I felt after watching. Maybe the correct phrase I'm looking for is "atmosphere over substance."
Let's take a look at the title, for example. February - the original title of the film - is only related to its plot in the sense that the story takes place during that month. It's inconsequential. To me, this is like naming "A Miracle on 34th Street" "December." It's a title that doesn't tell you anything, and that doesn't really link back to the plot in any meaningful way. The US title - The Blackcoat's Daughter - is almost even more obscure, though it ties in a bit tighter, at least thematically, to the film's events.
This was the feeling I had throughout the entire movie - that the plot wasn't so much about the plot and its meaning, but instead was a device meant to convey capital "M" Mood and Big Ideas. If you're looking for MOOD, you'll find it here in spades. The dread is thick as pudding, it's fairly creepy, and the sense of something being very very wrong is beautifully laced throughout. Director Oz Perkins is absolutely wonderful at displaying the isolation - both physical and emotional - of the film's two main characters.
That being said, I couldn't shake the feeling that something was missing. The plot and characters are underdeveloped, and an odd casting choice central to the plot attempts to be a clever puzzle, but ends up just adding an unnecessary layer of confusion. At the end I found myself asking - what was it all for? Is there any deeper meaning to The Blackcoat's Daughter and its characters than the series of events that we see on screen? Is it a metaphor about mental illness and the darkness that can arise when we're disconnected from those around us? Or is it meant to be viewed literally, as a story about a young woman's relationship with demonic forces?
Despite these flaws, I enjoyed The Blackcoat's Daughter. It's a slow burner (and we know how much I love slow burn horror!), it's beautiful made, the acting is good, and there's dread and atmosphere in abundance. It is very very fucking creepy. And I have to admit that it's almost an ideal film for Overthinkers. Though everything in the film doesn't come together perfectly, this is one that will leave you with something to chew on well after the screen goes dark.