FilmIFFBoston 2016Review

IFFBoston Review: ‘The Blackcoat’s Daughter’ Is a Low Point For IFFBoston 2016

Samuel Kaufman ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

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Kiernan Shipka in The Blackcoat’s Daughter. Photo Credit: A24.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter is dark, slow, ethereal, ambiguous, and hyper-violent. It is beautiful and creepy. It is well shot and well cast. It is evident that a lot of talented people worked very hard to make this work of art come to life. It’s just a darn shame that all of that work was wasted on making such a bad movie.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a horror movie about two teenage girls who are left alone at their all-girls Christian boarding school because their parents didn’t pick them up for break. One of the girls, Rose (Lucy Boynton), is a rebellious upperclassmen who intentionally tells her parents the wrong day to pick her up in order to hide the fact that she is going to get an abortion. The other girl is Kat (Kiernan Shipka), a freshman whose parents also haven’t shown up yet. This story is intercut with another one, nine years in the future, about a woman named Joan (Emma Roberts) who is hitchhiking near the school when she is picked up by a kind older couple played by Jodi Larratt and Douglas Kidd. As stated previously, the film does have good aspects. The leads are well cast, the cinematography is beautiful, the color palate is specific, and the sound design is atmospherically creepy. Unfortunately, the most breathtaking shots in the world do nothing if they are servicing a plot which is flimsy and unclear.

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Emma Roberts in The Blackcoat’s Daughter. Photo Credit: A24.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter’s largest problem is the lack of information given to the audience. It is difficult to navigate withholding enough details to achieve intrigue without keeping so much a secret that they get confused and stop caring altogether. This is an art that has famously been mastered by auteurs like Kubrick, Aronofsky, and Lynch. However, this is a dangerous game to play, and in trying to shoot for the cinematic moon, first time director Osgood Perkins has landed right back on Earth. Whether the result is due to the script, editing, or direction it’s hard to say, but The Blackcoat’s Daughter makes the fatal mistake of keeping the viewer almost completely in the dark, never revealing character’s motivations, backstories, or large chunks of the plot.

As an audience member you eventually get fed up, and it isn’t long before you stop caring about these people or what happens to them. The result is that the potential horror of any given situation is lost completely. Even as one of the main characters is being brutally stabbed to death, you find yourself nonplussed and blasé about the whole thing. This is in sharp contrast to the previous “IFF Boston After Dark” screening, Under The Shadow, which — through the masterful use of character development and slow tension building — successfully made a patterned sheet a terrifying adversary.

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Kiernan Shipka in The Blackcoat’s Daughter. Photo Credit: A24.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter is almost redeemed by the last shot of the film. It is one of the few honest moments of character, and it both leaves you wanting to know what will happen next and retroactively casts a different light on a substantial amount of the plot. Sadly, it did not fix everything, and by that time, the film was too far gone to be redeemed.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter bills itself as a complex and dark jigsaw puzzle that you have to piece together yourself. You’re welcome to try this, but be forewarned that there are so many pieces to the puzzle missing, that you will have trouble caring about the final picture.

For more information about the films that screened at this year’s IFFBoston visit iffboston.org.

Overall Grade: D+

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