Today, we are going to explain a horror, mystery, thriller film called, “The Blackcoat’s Daughter,” written and directed by Oz Perkins, son of Anthony Perkins from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film, Psycho.
Grief and loneliness are some of life’s most painful experiences. Much like other kinds of pain, they can push people into committing various actions as a way to cope. Some coping ways are helpful for the person’s mind, like talking to their loved ones or focusing on their own needs.
But some coping mechanisms can be harmful, to both the person grieving and to the people around them. Here, we’ll see how different characters cope with their loss and how it could drive one to do terrible things.
In February, Kat, a freshman from the Bramford Academy, dreams about her father fetching her. She walks with her father on a snowy road, filled with a sense of dread as she asks where their car is.
Up ahead, a wrecked car waits for them. Kat calls out worriedly for her mother before she wakes up from the disturbing dream. In her dark bedroom, Kat stares at the calendar, marking the day today. Tomorrow, her parents will pick her up for the week-long winter break.
That morning, Kat visits Father Brian in his office. Father Brian will be leaving for a personal business in Albany, making him Miss Kat’s upcoming recital. Father Brian senses something is troubling Kat.
His concerns increase when he sees an odd smile on Kat’s face as she stares seemingly into space. Kat graciously dismisses his concerns and wishes him luck on his trip.
At the school clinic, a senior student, Rose, complains to the nurse about headaches and having trouble swallowing. In her dorm room, she shares her late period to her friend, Lizzy. Rose is worried that she might be pregnant, but is uncertain if she would tell her boyfriend and her parents.
While the other students are excited to see their parents again the next day, Kat heads to the empty road, watching it expectantly. Moments later, Lizzy catches up to Rose, who’s heading to the auditorium.
When asked where her parents are, Rose tells her friend that they’re waiting for her inside. But when Rose parts ways with Lizzy, she joins a group of friends inside the auditorium instead.
Rose is the cool girl in school, surrounded by friends and even having a boyfriend despite going to an all-girls Catholic school. Yet, even with people by her side, Rose keeps them at arm’s length when it matters.
She confides her secret to Lizzy, but lies to her about her parents being there to pick her up for winter break. She also hesitates in sharing the pregnancy to both her parents and boyfriend, despite both parties being heavily involved should she have a baby.
Even with all the people around her, Rose still doesn’t have anyone she can fully be honest with. Her situation mirrors many people’s social standings of having many friends but no close friends or loved ones to turn to when they’re in trouble. A lack of quality relationships, in spite of having large quantities of it, can also make someone feel alone.
Rose and her friends watch Kat’s performance in the auditorium. The students and parents enjoy Kat’s song, unaware of the emotions she presses down as she performs. Her eyes linger to the side, staring at two empty seats from the auditorium worriedly.
After all the other students have gone back home, Kat and Rose are left behind. Kat’s parents are unreachable while Rose gave her parents the wrong day to come pick her up, thus they haven’t arrived.
Mr. Gordon assures Kat that her parents might just be delayed due to the bad weather or a similar confusion about the dates like Rose’s. Noticing Kat’s distant demeanor, Mr. Gordon tries to calm her worries, but it doesn’t work.
Later that day, Kat calls her father, but only reaches his voicemail. The girls are invited to the nearby home of the school nurses, Ms. Prescott and Ms. Drake, who stay in the boarding school’s premises even during the winter vacation. While they set the table for supper, Kat gets a sinking feeling as she places a spoon skewed on a napkin and straightens it.
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The image of the shiny spoon against the blank white napkin is reminiscent of Kat standing alone against the white, snowy, and empty road. The white and cold background echoes her loneliness, and her fixation on this sadness has her finding signs of it in odd places.
Her focus on the single spoon and her obsessive urge to straighten it are the first and subtle signs we see of her declining mental state.
After dinner, Rose gets dressed up in her room, ready to sneak out of the school for the night. While she gets prettied up, Rose shares rumors about the school nurses whom she claims to have no real hair in their body, even their eyebrows. The rumors started when a student who graduated three years ago walked in on the nurses at night while they worshipped the Devil. The story visibly disturbs Kat, but Rose ignores her doubts.
Handling Things Alone
After Rose gets into a car with her boyfriend, Rick, Kat enters Rose’s room despite being warned not to do so. Kat checks Rose’s makeup table and finds Rose’s school photo. In the photo, Rose seems like a regular Catholic schoolgirl, contrasting how she dressed up that evening. As Kat stares down at the photo, a school payphone rings in the distance.
Kat is now alone in the boarding school for the first time. Watching the other girl get prettied up and joining her boyfriend in a car makes Kat wonder how vastly different her life is to Rose.
Comparing herself to Rose, as well as being stuck in an empty building, amplifies Kat’s isolation. No matter how good life gets, seeing someone have something we don’t can strike us with jealousy and sadness.
In a town near Bramford, a young woman named Joan arrives at the terminal and quickly goes to the restroom. Her mind fills with flashes of memories from a mental health facility where she’s escaped from. Joan rips off the hospital band from her wrist and uses a payphone to make a call.
Unfortunately, the number she calls is no longer in service. She takes a map from the waiting area, plotting her route. As she waits alone in the shed outside, a man named Bill approaches her. Bill worries for the young woman, alone in the freezing weather with only a thin jacket to keep her warm.
He offers her a ride, pointing at his car parked with his wife inside to assure her that he means no harm. Joan says she wants to go to Portsmith, which Bill will pass by along the highway. Joan accepts the offer, but Bill’s wife, Linda, doesn’t seem to be happy with the stranger in her backseat.
At Bramford, Rick and Rose return to the boarding school. Their solemn expressions hint at the troubled night they spent. Rose has revealed to Rick about her potential pregnancy, but she refuses his help. He worries about her but Rose disregards his words and leaves the car.
An unexpected pregnancy amongst teens is truly a serious matter. Rose decides to share her worries with her boyfriend, but still rejects his worries and offers to help.
Often, such situations would lead young women to seek help from their partner, since they’re part of the pregnancy as well. But Rose isolates herself and wishes to deal with the problem in her own way. Her relationship with Rick is not enough to let her trust him, and so she pushes him away, forcing herself to handle things alone.
Inside, she passes by Kat’s bedroom but finds she’s not there. Before heading back to her room, Rose goes to the bathroom to pee and wash off her makeup. The vents rumble suddenly, and she hears a voice echoing from it. Rose looks around, disturbed by the sounds she’s hearing. Curiosity overcomes fear as Rose follows the voice downstairs. The dim hallway fills Rose with dread yet she pushes on, still hearing the voice that she assumes is coming from Kat.
She follows an ominous orange light from the boiler room and peeks into the small window on the door. There, she finds Kat’s silhouette, bowing in front of the boiler repeatedly. The scene is a quintessential horror shot.
Until this point, Kat has been the shy, lonely school girl who’s bothered by stories about the nurses being Devil worshippers. But hours after the story, she’s prostrating herself before the boiler in an unusually stoic, nearly inhuman, manner. It’s here where the film begins to plunge us into the horrors residing within Kat.
She has succumbed to her sadness and it’s leading her down a dark path. Later in the evening, Joan wakes up in the motel where they stopped over. While preparing to take a shower, Joan closes her eyes and sees a memory of a police officer shooting at her.
Joan bears a scar on her shoulder; the result of the officer firing at her in the past. More haunting memories invade her mind as she showers, including one of a priest hovering over her in the darkness. After her shower, Bill checks in on Joan, worried about her as a father would.
Joan apologizes for troubling him and his wife, but Bill shrugs off her apologies. When asked why he’s helping her, Bill shares how he sees God in little coincidences, like how he found her at the terminal. Joan reminds Bill of someone he loved, and he saw a sign of God in her, thus he went out of his way to help.
Just like Bill, it’s not uncommon for people to see signs of a higher power on small events. Many develop this trait simply out of their upbringing, but some hold onto this belief due to a big event in their lives. Bill mentioning how Joan reminds him of someone he loved implies how his religious beliefs stem from longing for that person.
Joan is a stand-in for a loved one who isn’t with him at this moment. Bill and Linda are headed to Bramford, which is near Portsmith. Hearing this, something inside Joan sparks.
After Bill leaves, Joan hides her face on her shoulders and rocks her body on the bed. Back at Bramford, Rose waits on Kat as she showers. Rose is pissed at having to babysit Kat but is also disturbed by what she saw.
While Kat dresses up, Rose convinces herself that Kat was only sleepwalking. Kat hops into bed when Rose brings up her parents. Kat believes her parents won’t be calling her, but Rose suggests they might have been confused like her parents.
But Kat knows the truth: Rose deliberately lied to her parents about the start of their vacation. Kat believes her parents are dead, shocking Rose. Rose scolds her for saying awful things and Kat’s only reply is that Rose smells pretty. Creeped out by Kat’s words, Rose gets up to leave.
Before doing so, Rose asks if there’s anything else she can get for Kat, which the younger girl refuses, saying that she “had her chance.” The statement bothers Rose further, but she no longer wants to stay around the strange girl and leaves. When Rose returns to her room, she locks the door and blocks it with an armchair. Kat’s strange behaviors scare Rose and she now fears for her safety.
Alone in her room, Kat twitches from her bed under the blanket and her body contorts oddly. Many believe that extreme sadness and depression can make a person vulnerable to influences beyond their control. After being left alone, Kat begins her slow descent into darkness.
It starts with the surprising scene of her prostrating herself to the boiler, to her cryptic messages to Rose, and topping it with a body contortion scene reminiscent of many iconic demon-possession films. This hammers down the idea that something supernatural is happening to the Catholic school girl.
At the restaurant near the motel, Joan joins Bill for dinner. He asks why she’s heading to Portsmith, which she answers that she’s visiting someone. Bill causally shares stories about his family, particularly his daughter.
The following day is the ninth anniversary of his daughter’s death, and meeting Joan, who is around the same age as Bill’s daughter would have been, reminded him of her. Bill shows Joan a picture of his daughter: Rose.
Joan stares at Rose’s face ominously, her thoughts interrupted when the waitress checks on their table. Joan excuses herself to the bathroom, where she stifles laughter. She fixes herself in front of the mirror as she remembers strangling a woman and stealing her I.D. It turns out that Joan is the fake name she stole from the woman she killed.
When she leaves the bathroom, she stops upon seeing a police officer talk to Bill. Before rejoining Bill, Joan looks meaningfully at a used steak knife from the restaurant. Bill informs her about the weather getting worse, forcing him to choose to head into the road tonight instead of waiting for the morning.
While waiting for Bill in the car, Linda asks Joan if he told her about their daughter. Linda worries over Bill grasping at his daughter’s memory, finding her image in a lot of people he sees, like how she sees her in Joan. Linda doesn’t share this behavior, except for one time she saw a teenage girl in a similar school uniform as Rose’s.
Lost in her thought, Linda describes the girl who reminded her of Rose in detail, her voice cracks as she does. Linda sighs heavily, snapping out of the memory.
The grief of losing a child can push parents into strange behaviors, as represented by Bill and Linda. After nine years, Bill takes comfort by clutching to his daughter’s memories and seeing her image in nearly any small thing he can find, which stresses his wife further.
For Linda, the thought of her daughter only brings her misery. She refuses to see her in other people, and the only time she did, it only caused her great pain, as suggested by how she loses herself in the memory. This is why she’s been cold to Joan compared to how Bill has treated her.
Bill cares for Joan as if she was Rose, but Linda, knowing that this is her husband’s motivation for helping Joan, is only reminded of the pain of losing her daughter.
Kat’s Degrading Health
Nine years ago, Rose wakes up still bothered about the events of the previous night. She finds Kat on the phone, assuming that she’s speaking to her parents. Instead, Kat tells her she was talking to someone who doesn’t allow her to live in the school but offers her to live with him.
When Rose asks who she’s talking about, Kat scoffs and says it’s Mr. Gordon. Kat approaches Rose and comments on her smelling pretty again, making her uncomfortable. The girls are invited back to the nurses’ house for breakfast.
While praying, Kat stares at Rose, alerting Ms. Prescott. Ms. Prescott insists on Kat praying with them. Kat smiles as she says the prayer half-heartedly, insulting the woman. Kat stands up casually, and then throws up on the table, alarming them all.
At the nurse’s office, Ms. Prescott checks on Kat’s health, who looks sickly and unfocused. When Ms. Drake takes her hand to give her medicine, Kat curses the woman. A different voice echoes along with Kat’s, which the others don’t notice. All three women stare at Kat, frozen in shock at her words.
Kat’s character has completely turned on its heel. She started as a soft-spoken freshman but is now resisting her prayers and cursing at the women caring for her.
Often, this could be a sign of her declining mental state. The feeling of loneliness or grief, especially to teenagers, could make them act out and even deny the customs that have been pushed onto them.
However, knowing Kat’s other actions that her companions haven’t noticed, we know there’s a deeper reason for her changes. The silence is broken when the phone rings. Ms. Prescott scolds Kat for her language, but Ms. Drake calls her attention, worried about the phone call.
With the nurses gone, Kat rambles on how the headmaster is wrong; that she can live there. The nurses call on Rose and ask her to shovel a path, in preparation for Mr. Gordon’s arrival. Hearing the headmaster will be returning, Rose worries that something happened. Ms. Prescott, however, refuses to say any more.
After Rose is done shoveling the snow, she heads back to the house but finds the door locked. She looks into the windows, hoping to get the attention of the nurses, but doesn’t find anyone. Tired, she walks back to the school and her bedroom instead.
While Rose takes a nap, Mr. Gordon arrives, accompanied by a policeman. They head to the nurses’ house but find it locked. Instead, they enter from the back door and see something shocking inside the house.
The day before the winter break, a horned silhouette follows Kat. She calls her parents on the payphone in the hallway after her bath but is instead greeted by the entity that calls her “baby girl.” The voice tells her “they’re not coming” and orders her to kill. Kat drops the call, heavily disturbed by the messages.
Throughout the rest of the day, Kat is distraught and distant. The time she’s talking to Rose in her bedroom, Kat sees the horned silhouette at the corner. When the phone rings in the hallway, after Rose has left, Kat answers it. The voice tells Kat that she can stay with it.
The truth about Kat is finally revealed. Her point of view over the last few days reveals that something evil has taken interest on her. The entity first makes direct contact when she tries to call her parents, where it calls her “baby girl.”
This tugs onto Kat’s need for a parental figure, now that her parents have perished. When Rose leaves with her boyfriend, Kat is left alone in the academy building for the very first time. The empty building magnifies Kat’s loneliness, making it the perfect time for the entity to tempt her once again, promising that she can stay with it.
The idea, mixed with her grief and loneliness, becomes the lure that plunges Kat into the darkness that results in several tragedies. On the day she’s left at the nurses’ home, Kat stabs the two older women, leaving a bloody scene which Mr. Gordon finds later on.
Rose wakes up from her nap, examining her body as she still worries about being pregnant. She heads to the bathroom to shower where she discovers her period had started. Rose is relieved that she’s not pregnant. Her celebration is cut short when she hears someone enter the bathroom.
Rose calls out to Kat, but nobody answers. Scared, she checks around the bathroom, finding no one there. She looks outside and sees the door to the staircase close.
Driven by curiosity again, Rose peeks into the staircase. A dead body sits at the foot of the steps, frightening Rose to back away. As she does, Kat appears and stabs her repeatedly.
Rose drops to the floor, still clinging to life but is powerless over her deranged schoolmate. Kat looks around the hallway with a mad smile on her face. She watches Rose’s life leave her body and lifts her head by the hair, ready to perform her next step.
From the nurses’ house, the policeman who accompanied Mr. Gordon follows a trail of blood leading to the school’s boiler room.
Here, he finds Kat kneeling before the boiler next to the decapitated heads of her victims. Kat stands up as the policeman warns her to drop the knife, his voice muffled against her ears. The policeman aims his gun at her, distressed over the image of the young girl and her victims.
Kat slowly lifts her arms and hails the Devil. She screams like a beast, prompting the policeman to shoot her. As soon as Kat notices the police officer, his voice becomes muffled, signifying Kat’s detachment to the real world. He is nothing but a vague entity to her, one that’s interrupting what she needs to do.
Much like how Rose pushed the people around her, Kat has completely rejected the world where she only felt abandonment. Instead, she turns her devotion to the evil entity that promises to stay by her side.
At present, Bill drives his wife and Joan through the highway, nearing Bramford. Linda argues to Bill how he keeps sharing stories about their daughter,
but skips the part on how she was murdered. When they’re near the boarding school, Joan asks to stop the car as she’s feeling sick. Linda refuses to stop near the school, unwilling to be near where their daughter was murdered. But Bill insists and parks the car anyway.
As soon as the car stops, Joan stabs the couple from the backseat, killing them both. With her face covered in their blood, Joan begins to slice off the couple’s heads. Joan puts the heads into empty luggage from the trunk and cleans the blood from her face and even puts on makeup.
Nine years ago, Kat wakes up in a mental health facility, strapped to the bed. Father Brian visits her and touches her forehead. As soon as he does, Kat gives him a coy smile, alerting Father Brian that something is inside her.
The priest performs an exorcism on Kat, commanding the entity inside her to leave. Kat floats on the bed during the exorcism, and then drops suddenly on the bed. She looks to the side, seeing the horned shadow by the window. Kat begs it not to leave, but it disappears. At present, Joan heads to the old Bramford boarding school, which has been abandoned since the horrific events. She goes to the boiler room and finds the boiler cold and deserted.
The entity that radiated warmth and light from the boiler is no longer here. Unable to perform her ritual, Joan heads out and breaks down in the middle of the road. Extreme loneliness can make someone seek comfort in the most awful places.
This is often the reason why young people mingle with a bad crowd who influences them into criminal activity. Kat takes this into a whole new level. As symbolized by the harsh winter in both Kat and Joan’s timeline, and how the film shows Kat alone in front of a snowy, empty landscape, Kat feels alone in the world.
Her dream at the beginning acts as a premonition to her parents’ fate. The man walking with her, whom she assumes was her father, may have been the entity that finally found a subject broken enough to influence.
From how she draws a heart on the date that her parents were supposed to arrive, Kat is close to her parents and loves them dearly. The entity uses her love and twists it into grief by showing their deaths to her.
At school, Kat is shown as a shy and awkward freshman, who’s only friend is one of the priests that teaches there, Father Brian. With him leaving the school before winter break, Kat has no one else to turn to. Her loneliness becomes the lure that the entity uses to guide her down the sinister path.
With the promise of staying with her, the entity convinces Kat to let it in and sacrifice her only companions at the school for it.
Rose is a stark contrast to Kat’s life. She is popular, has friends, and even has a boyfriend. Her potential pregnancy, however, forces her to build a wall between her and her parents. Rose wanted to buy herself more time to either get rid of the pregnancy or to formulate a way to break the news to her parents.
With all her own worries, she rejects helping out Kat. Rose ignores the younger girl despite Kat expressing interest in her life. This is solidified when, after she bowed to the entity at the boiler room, Kat tells Rose she had her chance to help her. Kat sought comfort from Rose when she lingered at the older girl’s bedroom. But Rose had her own agenda for the evening and didn’t have time for Kat.
Perhaps, if Rose had paid attention to Kat, both girls might have been spared from the entity’s desires. Her ignorance of Kat’s condition is no different than how many of us are blind to our friends’ and families’ sadness.
Even a simple gesture like hanging out with the person could go a long way to saving them from destructive behavior. Kat seals Rose’s fate out of desperation of not being alone.
On that fatal day, the nurses received a troubling phone call. They dismissed Rose to speak to Kat alone, bringing the news and confirmation that her parents are gone. This became the last straw that breaks Kat, and thus she offers up the three women as sacrifices for the only other being that promised her companionship.
When she’s caught by the policeman, her getting shot mirrors Joan’s memory of being shot in the shoulder. Kat’s exorcism is also the same as Joan’s memory of the priest hovering over her.
This implies one thing: Joan is Kat nine years after the events at Bramford Academy. Since her crimes, Kat had been confined in the mental health facility. Yet, her rejection of this world prevents her from accepting the help she needs from professional care.
Instead, she spent the years obsessively plotting her way back to the entity that was taken from her. She took meeting Rose’s parents as a sign that the entity wants to be with her again, thus her laughter in the restaurant bathroom. She chooses them to sacrifice to the entity and even makes herself look pretty before the ritual, as if getting ready to meet a special someone.
But when the boiler at the academy is empty and cold, she discovers the entity is no longer there. Alone and abandoned by the evil thing she’s been seeking for nine years, Kat or Joan breaks down in front of the same cold, empty road that her parents never arrived on.
Accepting help from the people who care about us could save us from our own bad choices. This is symbolized in both Kat and Rose. Had Kat shared her worries to someone, or at least allowed herself to be treated at the mental health facility, she could have led a different life.
Rose, on the other hand, could have faced her parents instead of lying to them, which would have spared her from Kat’s wrath at the academy. In the end, their loneliness and unwillingness to let in the people they love into their lives is the trigger that ended with their tragic fates.