The Blackcoat's Daughter, originally titled February, was a film that received quite some buzz during it's initial screenings at film festivals back in 2015. It eventually got a quiet release in limited theatrical screenings in February (of course) 2017 before its home release.
As a connoisseur of horror films, I was intrigued (even though I dislike Emma Roberts) especially because despite its derivative themes of demonic possession, the film apparently does new things with the formula. Bought it day one and I have to say I was kind of disappointed.
In a boarding school, students Katherine "Kat" (Kiernan Shipka) and Rose (Lucy Boynton) stay behind during school break while the other girls leave with their families. Kat's parents don't come because they are deceased while Rose intentionally gave her parents the wrong date, she suspects that she might be pregnant and doesn't yet want to face her parents about it. The third girl, "Joan" (Emma Roberts), is a mystery as she gets off on a bus stop and is implied to be an escaped mental patient as she removes her hospital bracelet in the bathroom. She is soon picked up by an elderly couple (James Remar and Lauren Holly) who mention that they are on their way to the boarding school.
Watching the film I was underwhelmed because it is hollow and has no soul. It's plenty creepy with looming hallways and dark spaces but there's never anything here that's actually frightening. Kat is orphaned and as a result is supposed to be metaphorically raised by darkness because she summons a demon in the boiler room after Rose taunts her with a story that the nuns are satanists and worship demons. I never once got the indication that Kat was lonely, sure she looks gloomy but she's like that for the entire movie even before we find out what happened, she never grieves her parents and never looks lost and desperate. She has no character arc or any semblance of a personality. It makes it hard to believe that she'd befriend the demon out of loneliness as a result, the demon itself also doesn't have a threatening presence. I never got chills of dread about the demon or what it's capable of, it isn't unnerving and almost feels like a plot device threaded thorough the film so that the movie can exist.
Rose is equally as uninteresting and hollow. Her entire character is just her hanging out with her boyfriend and interacting with Kat for a small conversation. I understand why she stayed behind but the problem is that I know it but I don't feel it. Rose never once looks anxious or panicked about the possibility of being pregnant, if you didn't catch it the first time you would probably never pick up on it. There's also never any friction or tension when she is with her boyfriend over the fact that he might have gotten her pregnant. She has no arc and never becomes involved in the plot as anything more than another plot device. In the third act she finally has her period, much to her relief, and is suddenly killed by a possessed Kat after she also murdered the nuns, and offers their decapitated heads as an offering to the demon before she is blasted with a shotgun by the police and sent to an institution. No resolution, nothing, her death carries no meaning because she never had any either as a character.
This leads me to my next point, the "big" twist in the film is that "Joan" is actually an older Kat after she escaped the asylum and has returned to the town 9 years later to return to the boarding school and is actually picked up by Rose's parents who are heading to the school to place flowers at her grave. The glaring problems with this twist is that it's pretty obvious. Joan/Kat is never in the same scene with the other girls and exists in her own subplot completely separated from the boarding school. While Joan/Kat is showering, we can see a shotgun wound on her shoulder where Kat was shot before the twist is revealed, she also looks extremely similar to Kat in terms of hair color and facial appearance. The dead giveaway is that in the diner scene with Joan/Kat and Rose's father, he reveals that their daughter Rose died 9 years earlier and shows her a picture of her before Joan/Kat heads to the bathroom and starts to giggle before we see the driver's license of the woman she killed and stole it from, who was named Joan Marsh.
The film clumsily ends with her killing the parents in their car before decapitating them and taking the heads to the now closed down boarding school. She again offers the heads as a sacrifice in the boiler room and yet nothing happens. She walks out in despair and starts to cry uncontrollably. The point you were supposed to get was that she is lonely and wanted the demon back, because she was exorcised by a priest before she was institutionalized and wanted it to stay with her. There's no raw emotions to this scene because we never got a sense of desperation or loneliness from Kat, the exorcism scene is the only time in the whole film she expresses her attachment to the demon. With no emotional knowledge of the situation there's no impact.
This film reminds me of Proxy, both have loosely attached events with a scattered plot messily clashed together with no semblance or fluidity to it. The few redeeming qualities I saw are the eerie and beautiful winter setting, the unnerving music, and the cinematography is somewhat creepy. But otherwise this movie is soulless and has no weight attached to it. It's forgettable. I still recommend you check it out if you're curious, just temper your expectations because it isn't as good as you'd hope it is.