The Blackcoat's Daughter
The Blackcoat's Daughter (also known as February) is a 2015 Canadian-American psychological horror film written and directed by Osgood Perkins. The film stars Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Boynton, Lauren Holly, and James Remar. Over their winter break, two Catholic schoolgirls get left behind at their boarding school at which the nuns are rumored to be satanists.
|The Blackcoat's Daughter|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Osgood Perkins|
|Written by||Osgood Perkins|
|Music by||Elvis Perkins|
|Edited by||Brian Ufberg|
The film premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival before it was released through video-on-demand on February 16, 2017, by DirecTV Cinema, and was released theatrically in the United States on March 31, 2017, by A24. The film received positive reviews, with particular praise for the cast's performance.
The plot is split into three "timelines". The first two, "Rose" and "Joan", intercut between each other throughout the bulk of the film, before a third timeline, "Kat", is introduced and comprises the film's climax.
In February, students at the prestigious Catholic Bramford Academy, a boarding school in upstate New York, are preparing to be picked up by their parents for a week-long break. Katherine “Kat” (Kiernan Shipka), a freshman, and Rose (Lucy Boynton), a senior student, are left behind when neither of their parents arrive. Rose suspects she may be pregnant so she deliberately lied to her parents about the vacation dates to bide time. Kat, meanwhile, has a premonitory dream of her parents dying in a car crash, and is unable to get ahold of them for an explanation of their tardiness. The two girls are left alone together in the academy overnight, and the nuns task Rose with looking after Kat. Rose, however, departs with her boyfriend to inform him of the possible pregnancy. During this time, while Kat is left entirely alone in the building, the phone rings and she responds. Hours later, Rose returns and finds Kat in the boiler room, repeatedly prostrating herself before the boiler. Rose brings Kat back to her dorm and presses for an explanation of her strange behavior, but Kat speaks cryptically and claims her parents are dead, offering no further explanation and disturbing Rose. After Rose leaves, Kat's body starts convulsing and contorting in her bed.
The next morning, Rose and an increasingly sickly-looking Kat join the nuns for breakfast, where Kat behaves erratically, vomits, and curses at the nuns. After receiving an alarming phone call, the nuns order Rose to shovel the driveway for the abrupt return of the headmaster Gordon. After shoveling, Rose finds the door to the nuns' cabin locked, with no response from within, and returns to the dorm building. Later, Gordon arrives with a policeman; as they enter the nun's cabin, a bloodstain is seen on the wall, and the men react with shock to something offscreen.
A young woman going by the name of Joan (Emma Roberts) arrives at a bus stop after escaping a mental institution. A friendly older man named Bill (James Remar) offers Joan a ride with him and his wife Linda (Lauren Holly) to Bramford, which is near the town where she claims to be headed. As they stop at a motel, Joan showers, revealing a scar on her shoulder, and a flashback shows her being shot by a policeman. Bill tells Joan over dinner at a nearby restaurant that he picked her up because she reminded him of his deceased daughter, revealed in a photograph to be Rose - the next day will be the ninth anniversary of Rose's death, on which her parents visit Bramford every year. Joan recognizes Rose and retreats to the restaurant bathroom, where she suppresses a fit of laughter. Another flashback reveals Joan is a fake name; the real Joan was a woman whom she killed to steal her I.D. Bill, Linda and Joan depart for Bramford.
During the days leading up to winter break, Kat is shown to be in contact with an entity depicted alternately as a looming, horned shadow and a deep, gravelly voice on the phone outside her dormitory. This entity informs her of her parents' impending death, and instructs her to kill everyone. After breakfast, the nuns receive a phone call informing them that Kat's parents have died. After Rose is dismissed to shovel the driveway, Kat murders both nuns. She pursues the oblivious Rose into the academy; shortly after Rose has her period, confirming she is not pregnant, Kat stabs her to death and beheads her. Gordon and the policeman search the building and find Kat prostrating herself in front of the boiler again, with the decapitated heads of her three victims lined up next to her. Brandishing the knife, Kat exclaims "Hail Satan!" before the policeman shoots her in the shoulder, revealing that "Joan" is Kat. Kat is detained in a mental hospital, where a priest arrives and performs an exorcism to banish her demon. The exorcism is seemingly successful, but Kat begs the horned figure not to leave her before it vanishes.
"Joan", the Kat of nine years later, murders Bill and Linda when they pull over in Bramford. She beheads their corpses, coats her face with their blood like makeup, and brings the heads to the boiler room of the academy, seemingly in an effort to summon the demon she lost years ago. However, she finds the boiler cold and unused. Now completely alone, Kat leaves the academy and breaks down crying in the middle of the road.
- Emma Roberts as Joan, an asylum escapee traveling with Bill and Linda.
- Kiernan Shipka as Katherine, an awkward and creepy freshman who is being haunted by a dark spirit while she is at school with Rose.
- Lucy Boynton as Rose, a daring young woman in her senior year of high school who fears she might be pregnant. She is joined by Kat during the winter break while they are stuck at school.
- Lauren Holly as Linda, Rose's mother and Bill's wife who dislikes Joan.
- James Remar as Bill, Rose's father, a kind man who is married to Linda and is showing kindness to Joan through driving her to her destination.
- Greg Ellwand as Father Brian, the head of the boarding school.
- Elena Krausz as Ms. Prescott, a teacher at the boarding school.
- Heather Tod Mitchell as Ms. Drake, a teacher at the boarding school.
- Peter James Haworth as Mr. Gordon, a teacher at the boarding school.
- Peter Gray as Rick, Rose's boyfriend.
- Emma Holzer as Lizzy, Rose's friend who finds out first that Rose might be pregnant.
Although the film only received a wide release after I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House was shown, The Blackcoat's Daughter was actually filmed first, making it Perkins' debut film. Perkins noted that he intended to "tell a sad story" about loss and used the horror genre, specifically the possession subgenre, as a "Trojan Horse". Perkins also noted that he could have still made the film without this angle, but felt its omission would have resulted in the audience's engagement with the story being very different. Financing the film was particularly difficult, and Perkins attributed this to the "slumping" success of the horror genre at the time, since the film's script was completed in 2012, but filming did not begin until 2015. In addition, even though those to whom Perkins initially showed the script were enthusiastic about it, many of them believed that it would be impossible to make. However after the casting of Kiernan Shipka and Emma Roberts was announced in April 2014, and the casting of Lucy Boynton, Lauren Holly, and James Remar was announced in February 2015, the film then became a reality.
Principal photography for the film began in February 2015 in Kemptville, Ontario, Canada, and the film's soundtrack was scored by Perkins' brother, Elvis Perkins, who is a singer-songwriter. Unfortunately for him, Elvis had never written a film score before, and he found the medium confining, with Perkins noting that the restrictions "almost killed him".
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 2015. Shortly after, A24 Films and DirecTV Cinema acquired US distribution rights to the film. The Canadian distribution rights were then acquired by ABMO Films. The film had its US premiere at the Fantastic Fest on September 24, 2015. In November 2015, it was announced that the film had sold to various international territories at the AFM, including the United Kingdom, France, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, Poland, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Middle East. The film was retitled from February to The Blackcoat's Daughter. The film was scheduled to be released DirecTV Cinema on July 14, 2016. But was pushed back to August 25, 2016, before opening in a limited release on September 30. The film was then pulled from the schedule and pushed back to an undisclosed 2017 date. It was released on February 16, 2017, through DirecTV Cinema, before being released on March 31, 2017, in a limited release and through video on demand by A24. On Netflix UK, it was released under the title February.
On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 72%, based on 67 reviews, with an average rating of 6.44/10, and the site's consensus of the film reads: "Slow-building and atmospheric, The Blackcoat's Daughter resists girls-in-peril clichés in a supernatural thriller that serves as a strong calling card for debuting writer-director Oz Perkins." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 68 out of 100, based on reviews from 17 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Leslie Felperin of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "As with so many of the best mystery-horror films, the optimum way to enjoy a first viewing of this is try to remain as ignorant as possible about what happens. That said, it also brims with tiny, blink-and-you'll-miss-them details that will repay repeat viewings." Joe Leydon of Variety magazine wrote: "In addition to everything else he does right in February, Perkins plays fair: When you replay the movie in your mind after the final fadeout, you realize that every twist was dutifully presaged, and the final reveal was hidden in plain sight all along."
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