Originally titled February, The Blackcoat’s Daughter was Oz Perkins debut film but did not receive a wide release until after I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in The House (2016). The film made its premier at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. Shortly after, A24 Films and DirecTV Cinema acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film. The film still comes under the title February on Netflix UK.
When Kat and Rose’s parents fail to collect them on time for winter break, Rose is asked to keep Kat company until their parents arrive by Mr Gordon, the headmaster. He leaves the school. Kat and Rose are monitored by the schools Nuns. Convinced her parents have perished in a car crash; Kat’s begins to behave strangely. We simultaneously see Joan, after arriving at a bus station; tear a psych ward hospital tag from her wrist. Bill notices Joan is alone and looks distressed, he offers her a lift and is met with protests from his wife, Linda. It is revealed that Rose intentionally told her parents the wrong collection day in order to sneak out of the boarding school to inform her boyfriend of her unwanted pregnancy. On returning to the school she hears strange noises and seeks them out. The noises come from the boiler room in which she spies on Kat performing some bizarre movements in front of the flaming boiler. The film cuts back to Joan awakening in a hotel room, the audience is shown a scar from a bullet wound on Joan’s shoulder and a flashback plays of Joan being shot by a rifle wielding police officer. Bill invites Joan to dinner with him in which he reveals that he picked her up because she reminds him of his daughter. He shows Joan a photograph of Rose and it is revealed that Rose is dead. Joan excuses herself to the bathroom, she giggles and has a memory of killing a woman and stealing her ID.
At this point the film clearly infers that Joan is really Kat and she giggles because she knew Rose. It’s easy for the audience to glean from this that Kat potentially was involved with Rose’s death.
Joan returns to the car where Bill’s wife is waiting. Whilst waiting for Bill, Linda reveals that Bill sees Rose in lots of young girls but she, herself, does not see a speck of Rose in Joan. We go back to Rose tucking Kat in bed, Rose tries to assure Kat that her parents are on their way home, Kat tells her that she knows her parents are dead. Disturbed by this Rose bars her bedroom door. The next day at breakfast with the Nuns, Kat refuses to join them in prayer, when chastised for this, she vomits onto the table. As the Nuns try to attend to Kat she lashes out and curses at them, her voice changes and deepens.
Kat: Get your hands off me, cunt!
It is obvious at this point that Kat is possessed. This is the only time in this film that it resorts to possession clichés used often in other possession films, it seems that demons particularly enjoy that curse word.
Mr Gordon calls the Nun’s to inform them he is returning, we can assume it is to inform Kat of her parent’s demise. They ask Rose to shovel the driveway, once finished Rose attempts to enter the Nun’s house but the doors are locked. She decides to return to her dorm room. Mr Gordon arrives at the house with a police officer, they gain entry to the house, we see Mr Gordon looks on in horror. At this point we are shown several key points through Kats timeline, a phone call to some unknown entity, informing Kat her parents are dead and telling her to kill everyone. We also see the entity is with her at certain points in the story where her behaviour has been unusual. It then cuts back to Kat murdering the two Nun’s. Rose is in the school toilets and she gets her period, she is relieved that she is not pregnant. She hears someone enter the toilets and then leave. She walks out, we then see Kat murder Rose and decapitate her.
Rose: You didn’t hear about Jen Darling’s sister? Graduated three years ago. She walked in on them one night…worshipping the Devil.
The police officer walks into the boiler room after searching the school to find Kat kneeling before it with the heads of her three victims. The police officer asks her to drop the knife, she stands and begins to shout, “Hail Satan!”. The police officer shoots Kat. Bill and Linda approach the school in which Rose died, Linda tells Joan how Rose was killed. Joan asks them to stop the car as she is going to be sick. Joan slits Bill’s throat and stabs Linda to death. She then decapitates them both. We then see Kat having an exorcism performed on her, the entity leaves and Kat asks it not to go. Joan enters the school and places the heads in front on the unlit boiler. The film concludes with Joan/Kat leaving the school and walking out onto an empty road. She screams and sobs into her bloodied hands.
I was surprised to find so much confusion over the plot of this film on various websites such as IMDb, Reddit, etc. I feel it is pretty clear cut. The film follows two timelines of Kat at school and then Kat 9 years later pretending to be Joan. After the events at the boarding school Kat was put in a mental institution but later escaped, killed a lady called Joan and assumed her identity. She makes her way back to the boarding school. She murders Rose’s parents in the same manner as before in hopes that the entity will return. When the entity fails to return she realises she is truly alone.
Linda: When she was found, they had to do a blood test to see if her head matched the body.
I’ll be totally honest, for me, this film wasn’t a pleasant watch, and it doesn’t intend to be. The use of bleak visuals and the film’s score puts the audience in a constant state of dread. The film doesn’t spell it out for you which I liked. Instead of another film trying to scare me with jump scares, The Blackcoat’s Daughter left me feeling quite terrified and nauseous throughout much of the story. Because of this I was hugely impressed by this film, it is original and a very refreshing take on the over-saturated possession sub-genre. Kiernan Shipka blew me away with her performance and I enjoyed seeing Emma Roberts play a role quite different from other roles I’ve seen her in. I look forward to seeing what Oz Perkins has to offer us in the future.