Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Oz Perkins
Cast: Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Boynton
Oz Perkins, son to the late, great Anthony Perkins, may not be what most would recognize as a powerhouse genre contributor, but if The Blackcoat’s Daughter, or February, as it’s known in other regions, is any indicator of what’s to come from Perkins, there’s a new power player traipsing about our familiar landscape. The Blackcoat’s Daughter, as it turns out, is a perfectly concocted tale of three lives destined to meet in mysterious and alarming circumstances.
The challenge of reviewing the film, is not giving away the goods. And, as the story is laid out, with overlapping timelines and huge focus on three young ladies, it’s nearly impossible to keep this one spoiler free. But, I’ll give it a quick go simply by stating that a tragedy is coming to a girl’s boarding school in the form of a susceptible and impressionable young lady with a troubled personal life that will set in motion a series of catastrophes destined to ruin the lives of many.
That’s honestly all I can give you. And that may feel like a rip-off of sorts, but once the story gets in motion you won’t exactly feel robbed. The reason being, is that damn near every single moment of the picture is eerie. Perkins’ cinematic style could in some ways, coincidentally, be likened to Alfred Hitchcock’s style; every scene feels like a relevant setup to something horrific. And, in a sense, in the case of The Blackcoat’s Daughter, every scene kind of is a setup to something terrifying, or at the very least, disturbing.
But the deeper we get into the film, and the more we get to know of Kat, Rose and Joan, and the ties that bind their existences, the more Perkins carves out his own mark as a filmmaker. Although I’ll admit, this film is so beautiful and so intricate in its assembly and style that The Blackcoat’s Daughter feels like the lovechild of Christopher Nolan and Stanley Kubrick. It’s artistically seamless, and for a film that doesn’t force a wealth of graphic violence down our throats, it’s awfully chilling and unsettling on a very human level. By the time the final credits roll, you know – you understand – that it’s going to stick to your bones for a very long while.
You’re going to see some breathtaking and immensely uncomfortable performances, but good lord are they riveting. Kiernan Shipka, who can’t even legally enter a club, is brilliant and haunting. You’d swear she’d been honing her craft for a multitude of decades as opposed to 10 years. Her future… well, I can’t even begin to speculate how far she’ll go. She’s an amazing young performer, and I’m excited to see what the future holds in store for her. But Shipka isn’t alone. She’s got superb backup in the form of the gorgeous Lucy Boynton, another fairly foreign performer – to me – that I’m ecstatic to have discovered. She’s the real deal. And while we’re talking about the real deal, I have to eat every negative thing I’ve ever said about Emma Roberts, who plays Joan. I’ve trashed Roberts in the past, labeling her wooden and a try-too-hard. I see now that it isn’t Roberts’ acting that’s been off, it’s the material she’s taken on. I don’t think she’s well-suited for shallow material or hollow roles. I think she was still green in Scream 4 and Empire State, and I think Scream Queens is a soulless production that doesn’t afford her the deep, multifaceted material she’s built to work with. Roberts needs to be seeking deep, intelligent, meaningful roles, because she’s an excellent actress when the script is written with passion and acumen. Ms. Roberts, I apologize for ever doubting you.
This film screened a few months back in Seattle, and it was great to catch it then, however I was (admittedly) a few beers deep and couldn’t quite appreciate it at the time (nor was I in Seattle for any work related reasons, so I was… switched off mentally, shall we say). Now, having seen it a second time, I was indeed able to see the film for what it really is, which is beautifully chilling and a true modern day masterpiece. And – might I add – to my astonishment, I was actually able to purchase a digital copy of the film through Amazon.co.uk (call me ignorant, but I had absolutely no idea I could stream/purchase from the international extension of amazon), and while I paid a few more bucks than I’d have preferred, the second viewing was no doubt worth every last penny.
It looks like a wide US release of the film isn’t on tap until next year, but regardless of which year we choose to recognize as the film’s official release year, it’s no doubt one of the very best. In fact, it’s one of the best films I’ve seen in my 35 years.