Art House Horror. It has become a genre all its own these days. The last couple years multiplexes have been swarmed with horror films like The Babadook and It Follows. These films are often slow and methodical, and they feature beautifully shot scenes and carefully precise scares. These films almost transcend the genre and have definitely crossed over into the mainstream. Just look at the success of It Follows. It’s no wonder studios are snatching up these festival favorites left and right. They bring in serious bank when one is well reviewed.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter is the story two young girls in a boarding school who, after the school empties out for a winter break, are left alone with the creepy goings on in the empty building. All the while, another girl, on the run from some mysterious past, meets up with a family on their way to the school. Once the dark side of what is happening at the school is revealed, the stories come together in unexpected and shocking way.
Movies like this tend to worry me. If they are done well, they are deeply affecting and creepy. If done poorly, I’m bored and I’m counting the minutes until something that gets the slightest of reactions out of me happens. I was fairly confident in this film because I had seen director Osgood Perkins’s other film I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House on Netflix a few months ago. I enjoyed that film quite a bit. While I felt like it was a little too slow for it’s own good, it definitely had some creepy moments and it got under my skin. He also co-wrote The Girl in the Photographs which I really, really liked.
See, Oz Perkins is a bit of horror royalty. He is the son of the late, great Anthony Perkins of Psycho fame. So it’s fitting he is working within our beloved genre. Before there was I Am the Pretty Thing and Girl in the Photographs, there was February. After two years of sitting on a shelf, it was finally released as The Blackcoat’s Daughter. While I actually do prefer the more sinister new title, there was no reason for this film to shelved as long as it was, because it’s great.
I wasn’t initially hooked by moment one, however. My worry about the movie’s pace kicked in almost immediately. Once the story started to unravel in the first chunk of the film, I was hooked. The first story we are introduced to features actors Kiernan Shipka and Lucy Boynton as the girls left behind at the school. I’m a bit biased because I’ve been in love with Lucy Boynton since last year when she appeared in one of my favorite non-horror films of 2016, Sing Street, but that girl is a forced to be reckoned with, and I can’t wait til she blows up in Hollywood. She is a such natural talent and really carries the film as the character who the audience relates to.
Kiernan Shipka also knocks it out of the park as the introverted freshman at the school who’s harboring a secret. Both of these leads are so watchable, it doesn’t matter the content of the scene their in. You just can’t take your eyes off of them. The second story in the film follows a mysterious Emma Roberts as she hitches a ride to a new town with Lauren Holly and James Remar. Remar is one of the greatest character actors working today, and he really delivers here. It was also good Holly again, and she holds her own with Remar. These two play parents, who we are lead to believe, of one the girls from the first story.
The film balances the two stories effortlessly, letting each story breathe before cutting over to the next one. Once they come together, it doesn’t feel forced, leading to a natural and satisfying conclusion. Of the five main actors, there truly is no weak link and they play off of each other quite well. The slow and methodical pace of the film never weighs it down or takes away from the story we’re invested in.
In fact, since this is actually Perkins’s first film as a director even though it was released later, really leaves his mark on the genre with this one. He declares himself as a filmmaker to look out for in the genre. What works well is that the story is engaging and the actors are incredible, plus, the film is actually scary. The film does a nice balancing act of shocking acts of brutality as well as well done get under your skin eerie scares. It’s not particularly gory, but it is violent when it needs to be. It all works.
What the film does get tripped up on is spending too much time on subjects we’re not invested in. We are shown everything. If a character is using a payphone, we take the time to see the coins being taken out of their pocket, looked at, then put into the phone before they make the call in which their dialogue then advances the story. This is obviously a style choice and no accident. Perkins wants to show you everything surrounding these characters. It’s just a personal choice that took me out of some moments in the film I was invested in.
Like I mentioned earlier, the film also takes a few minutes to get going. The pace has to kind of grow on you, but rest assured, you won’t be able to look away during the films final fifteen minutes. The payoff is very satisfying and quite disturbing. Plus, we’re introduced to a looming demonic figure in the second act of the film that you’ll be checking the dark corners of your room for before you go to sleep after watching the movie. When he resurfaces at the end, it’ll send shivers down your spine.
While it’s not a perfect film, I definitely recommend this film to horror fans. Even if you don’t like slower paced horror films, give this one a chance. It delivers. I can’t wait to see what Perkins does next as he has definitely established himself in the genre as a filmmaker to keep an eye on with a voice all his own. The Blackcoat’s Daughter is haunting and shiver your nerves creepy.
A24 and DirecTV will release THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER in theaters and On Demand March 31, 2017. Don’t miss it.
Check out the trailer here: