31 Days of Halloween — Day 7: The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2017) — by Dr. Shock

31 Days of Halloween - The Blackcoast's Daughter 2015

Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast, Universal Monsters Cast and Land of the Creeps horror podcasts. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.

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) fills us with a sense of dread, yet somehow manages to also pique our curiosity; a tragedy is about to rock the girls’ 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. During the course of the day, most of the young ladies are picked up by their parents and head home to enjoy their week-long vacation. But when the last car pulls away, it’s discovered that 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 will have to remain at Bramford, where Miss Drake (Heather Tod Mitchell) and Miss Prescott (Elana Krausz), a pair of nuns who reside at the school full-time, will look after them.

But their parents aren’t coming; Rose told her father and mother the wrong date so that she could break the news to her boyfriend Rick (Peter Grey) that she’s pregnant. As for Kat, she had a vivid dream in which her parents were killed in a car accident, and she is convinced they are no longer alive. Fortunately for her, Kat has made a new “friend” at Bramford, an invisible entity that whispers in her ear, possesses her body and her mind, and makes her do some very, very bad things.

Meanwhile, miles away, a girl named Joan (Emma Roberts) climbs off a bus and is soon after approached by the kindly Bill (James Remar), who offers to give her a ride. Bill tells Joan 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 her wherever she wants to go. Joan says she is heading to Portsmouth, but to get there the three will have to pass through Bramford…

By following two storylines, “The Blackcoat’s Daughter,” along with its more horrific elements, proved to be a fairly perplexing mystery. Throughout the movie, we wonder how (and if) these two separate tales are going to intersect, and if Joan is connected in any way to either Kat or Rose. Perkins does eventually fill in some of the blanks (one major twist is revealed a bit earlier than it should have been), but as with any good mystery, he doesn’t lay his last card 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 still manages to make us care about the clearly disturbed Joan (we’re led to believe she’s escaped from a mental facility); and while Lucy Boynton’s Rose starts out as a typical, self-obsessed teenager (ignoring Mr. Gordon’s instructions, she leaves Kat by herself one night to visit her boyfriend), she soon realizes that 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 demon. We sense in her very first scene that Kat can see things others cannot (while meeting with the school’s resident priest, played by Greg Ellwand, Kat glances out the window and smiles as if acknowledging a friend, despite the fact nobody is there), and her behavior becomes more erratic as the film progresses.

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 befriended an evil spirit, but happily invited it to take over her body. Though only 15 at the time, Shipka gives a performance in “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” that would make an actress with 20+ years experience green with envy.

All this, as well as the film’s wintry setting (while the weather itself doesn’t figure prominently in the story, there’s a general feeling of isolation that goes hand-in-hand with a snowy landscape), some fine music (provided by Elvis Perkins, Osgood’s brother), and several truly shocking scenes work in unison to make “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” one of the best horror movies I’ve seen this year.

In fact, I’ll make a prediction: when we finally close the books on 2017, “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” is going to rank high on my Top 10 list. Take it to the bank.

—Dr. Shock

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3 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 7: The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2017) — by Dr. Shock


    Day 07 – Tales from the Crypt (1972)

    With this being my first watch of any of the Tales from the Crypt movies, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As I’m fairly familiar with the classic HBO television series, I was a bit concerned that this first film would be too different from the series. While there are some key differences, I’ll say for the most part, if you’re a fan of the television series, Tales from the Crypt movie should also be entertaining. The most jarring difference for me was in the wraparound story with the Cryptkeeper showing his five unwilling guests glimpses into the future for how they will die. The problem that I had with this wraparound is that the Cryptkeeper is just some older man. He could be your grandfather wearing a robe, hardly as memorable as the legendary puppet voiced by John Kassir. I would have preferred the Cryptkeeper have a bit more of a supernatural or undead look to himself. However, I’m unsure if that’s only because that’s all I’ve ever known for the Cryptkeeper. Would I feel the same had I watched this film before the TV series? The other key difference between the television show and this movie is the tone. All five stories in this film are treated more seriously than the often comedic TV series, which leads directly into the very first story.

    Much to my delight, the first story in the film was “All Through the House”, which also happens to be one of my favorite episodes of the television show. While both versions follow the basic story, the tone is far more dramatic in the film. This is best exemplified by the crazed Santa looking very ordinary in the film as opposed to his over the top version in the series. The wife in the film version came across as more unlikable because we get the impression that her husband is a decent guy based on his cheerful “Love from Richard” tag on the present made out to her. Quite the contrast to complaining husband in the television version. Due to the fact that the film version is only about twelve minutes long, you’re not given much of a cat-and-mouse battle between the wife and the crazed Santa. Instead, the main focus is just on the wife trying to get away with murder, delicately setting up the fake accident, and then finally dealing with this unwanted guest. Although I do prefer the television version, this was a highly enjoyable first story to start off the movie.

    The next two stories are also enjoyable and quite fulfilling when it comes to punishing those who do wrong. In “Reflections of Death”, it’s fairly predictable as to what happened to the husband, but considering the fact that this man just left his wife and children (His young daughter saying “Good night” and the father replying “Good-bye” is heartbreaking), it adds to the anticipation of the reveal. The slight twist at the very end only added to the glee of seeing this man punished. In “Poetic Justice”, it was harder to watch in terms of the cruelty played against the sweet old man Grimsdyke (Peter Cushing). This is a man who has done absolutely nothing wrong and has a heart of gold, but he’s being mentally tortured solely because one of the Cryptkeeper’s guests, James, isn’t fond of Grimsdyke not being as high class as James or his peers. This is the story that got me the most emotionally invested because I was dying to see James punished for being so awful to Grimsdyke.

    The fourth story, “Wish You Were Here”, is the oddest of the bunch and if I’m to be honest, it’s the one I would have preferred to see edited out in order to give the other stories more time. The whole appeal of Tales from the Crypt is watching awful human beings thinking that they’re getting away with something, but then paying for it. This story is a Monkey’s Paw sort of story with a distraught wife trying to bring her recently deceased husband, the Cryptkeeper’s guest, back to life. Yet, each time she makes a wish, it turns out terribly. However, at no point in the story, do either the dead husband or the widow seem like bad people. The result is that the story feels pretty vindictive to further torture a couple that has already been punished enough with the premature death of the husband. The fun value isn’t there as it would have been had they been rotten people who may have committed some heinous act to gain control of the wish making statue. Luckily, the fifth story, “Blind Alleys”, ends the film back on track with possibly the strongest story of the film. The Cryptkeeper’s guest, Major Rogers, is a real scumbag in living the good life while forcing all of the residents of the home of the blind suffer in dire conditions. From the beginning, you know that Rogers’ punishment will be rewarding, but it gets far more creative and sinister than I was even expecting. With modern eyes, this Saw-like punishment is pretty nasty and fun to watch as these blind men prove that while they may not have their eyesight, they can still be capable of punishing those who do them wrong.

    If I had to rank the stories, I’d go with:

    1. Blind Alleys
    2. All Throughout the House
    3. Reflections of Death
    4. Poetic Justice
    5. Wish You Were Here

    Overall, going into Tales from the Crypt, I wasn’t sure what to expect or even if I’d enjoy it, but for a ninety minute anthology film, it was pretty great. Even the story I wasn’t a fan of, “Wish You Were Here”, wasn’t technically bad, it just wasn’t what I wanted to see in a Tales from the Crypt short. I do still feel as if the HBO show took what worked in this movie (And I suppose the comics), but then added their own spin with the influx of comedy and a wacky Cryptkeeper loaded with one liners to make one of the best horror TV shows ever. If you’re a fan of the television show or horror anthologies in general, 1972’s Tales from the Crypt is well worth going out of your way to watch.

    Rating: 7.5/10

  2. Dave, I could not agree with you more about Blackcoat’s Daughter! I really enjoyed the film when my wife and I watched several months ago. At the time, I think I would have rated it an 8/10. However, as time has passed (and especially after reading your review), I would re-rate it at a 9/10. Why? Because unlike so many other movies I watch nowadays, Blackcoat’s Daughter has really stuck with me. And whenever I start to think about it, I find myself reflecting on the ideas, the mystery, and, as you pointed out, the sense of isolation Perkins was able to create. Excellent review for a fantastic movie!

  3. Day 7: Repulsion (1965)

    Repulsion is Roman Polanski’s first English film and the first in his “Apartment Trilogy.” It is a stark, slow burn but well worth the watch. The camera work is very fluid as it follows Carol Ledoux (Catherine Deneuve) throughout her daily routine but, in her small apartment the camera can be still and deliberate. The music is often in the forefront and the musical style changes dramatically depending on Carol’s state of mind. Carol’s conversations and interactions with other characters may seem small but are very revealing. There are understated themes of feminism and abuse while the film steadily descends into horror. 8/10

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