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Film / The Blackcoat's Daughter

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The Blackcoat's Daughter is a 2015 horror film directed by Oz Perkins, son of Anthony Perkins. The movie follows two storylines, the first centering around a pair of girls, Kat and Rose. The two have no choice but to stay at their Catholic school when neither girl's parents arrive to pick them up for an extended break in February. As the two get to know one another, Rose begins to suspect that something's not quite right about Kat. The second storyline follows a third girl, Joan, who is picked up by a couple when she's found all alone in the cold. As her storyline unfolds, we gradually learn more about the disturbing backstory that led to her current predicament.

This film provides examples of:

  • All for Nothing: Kat murders a nurse to escape the mental institution. She then murders Bill and his wife en route to the now shut down boarding school. She brings their heads to the furnace hoping the demon will possess her again, but he never comes, leading to the Downer Ending and Villainous Breakdown noted below.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Rose slowly gathers reason to believe that Kat, with whom she is stuck with for the time being, is completely insane. It turns out that she's actually possessed, although her sanity in the present day is dubious at best.
  • Alpha Bitch: Played with in that Rose initially displays such tendencies towards Kat. She becomes genuinely and increasingly concerned for Kat's well-being as the story progresses, which starts to imply she's actually a Lovable Alpha Bitch.
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  • Anachronic Order: The whole movie jumps back and forth between two time periods, but this doesn't become apparent until later.
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    • Bill to Joan, "Do you believe in God?" Joan can only mumble a weak "No ..." with downcast eyes.
    • And again when they're in the restaurant. "Well, that's better than having no one, isn't it?"
  • Being Evil Sucks: Kat's murder sprees only end up making her even more of a totally reviled outcast then she was to start the movie.
  • Being Good Sucks: Bill is selfless and compassionate when he offers to give Joan a ride, especially when he notices that she's inadequately dressed for the winter weather. He even expresses the belief that God brought him to Joan for her sake. He gets a Slashed Throat for his troubles, and his wife gets brutally stabbed to death shortly thereafter.
  • Beneath the Mask: The school picture of Rose has her with a beaming smile, and she looks happy in it. A Flashback scene shows that after the picture was taken, it was a Stepford Smile and her smile fades to reveal a rather sad and distraught young girl.
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  • Chekhov's Gun: Joan eyeballs a kitchen knife when she's leaving the restaurant bathroom. We don't see her pocket it. But she uses it towards the end of the film to murder both Bill and his wife.
  • Country Matters: Comes up twice on account of the demon possessing Kat. First, it uses Kat's mouth and voice to call Ms. Drake one. Everyone besides Kat drops their mouths in astonishment. It is a pretty big deal, considering the Catholic school setting. Second, it commands Kat over the payphone to "Kill all of the ..."
  • Creepy Child: The younger Kat really gives off this vibe, even as her age back then was at least pre-adolescent.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: All of Kat's victims get their throats slashed or stabbed to death prior to beheading. Bonus points to Miss Prescott. Kat slashes her throat just enough to render her helpless and in agony, but shallow enough so that the death is anything but quick.
  • Dark Is Evil:
    • The demon itself.
    • Some shots of Kat, or Kat years later as Joan, play into this trope.
  • Demonic Possession: The reason behind Kat's strange behavior. Her motivation in the present day is to become possessed all over again.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Subverted. Bill speaks to Joan while she's wearing nothing but a bath towel. He never exhibits even the slightest hint of sexual interest or inappropriateness towards her. On the contrary, his conversation with her only suggests sincere concern for her well-being.
  • Downer Ending: Rose is long dead, Bill and his wife are dead too, and Kate is unable to summon the demonic entity that possessed her years earlier. The movie ends with her sobbing, with no idea what to do with her life now.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Joan asks Bill, "Why are you helping me so much?" The way she asks it belies an uncomprehending disbelief that anyone would willingly help her at the drop of a hat without asking for anything in return.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: A literal case with Kat, played by Kiernan Shipka. What would otherwise be an adorable teenage girl is turned into a sadistic monster by a particularly violent instance of demonic possession.
    • This trope also works after Time Skip. Kat has grown into a lovely young woman but does horrific things out of a twisted desire to get possessed again.
  • Fate Drives Us Together: A non-romantic example. Bill believes God brought him and Joan together. Oh dear ...
  • Flashback Stares: A rather unusual example. The stares themselves occur early on when Kat converses with Father Brian or Rose or other characters, and they wonder what's distracting her into what comes across as Thousand Yard Stares. The flashbacks do not get revealed until the third act. And it turns out the demon was appearing to her and speaking to her during her stares.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: There's a scene where Joan is looking in the mirror after taking a shower. It's easy to miss that she has a scar on her left shoulder, one of the first clues that Joan is really an older Kat in a different timeline.
  • Foreshadowing: At least two instances. One is where Kat, Rose, Ms. Prescott and Ms. Drake are having supper together. All hell breaks loose, literally, the next time they sit at a table together. Second is when Rose pulls out a drawer filled with long sharp knives. Guess what happens next?
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Zigzagged.
    • Played straight during the Round Table Shot that sees Mr. Gordon make his way to the school dining room through the back door. It climaxes with blood next to the door leading to the kitchen, and Mr. Gordon cupping his hand to his mouth.
    • Subverted when we see Ms. Prescott with a Slashed Throat.
    • Played straight in that we never see the decapitated bodies of Kat's victims. Then again, we do see their heads..
    • Subverted again when Kat stabs her victims to death, to the point of There Is No Kill like Overkill.
  • Hope Spot: Rose heaves a sigh of relief when she looks at her pregnancy test and confirms that she isn't pregnant after all. Moments later ...
  • It's a Small World, After All: Bill and his wife happen to pick up Joan, the same girl who murdered their beloved daughter. The fact that the anniversary of Rose's death is an important date for both Bill and Joan, but for very different reasons, is the source of Narrative Causality.
  • Kill and Replace: Kat was locked up in a mental institution after her first series of murders. She picks up that she bears an uncanny resemblance to a nurse named Joan who works at the institute, so Kat strangles her and uses her ID to escape. She even uses Joan as her new name to facilitate travel by bus, and otherwise avoid revealing her true identity.
  • Loners Will Stay Alone: What drives Kat's actions throughout the film, and straight into the arms of the demon who possesses her. She's a shy and socially awkward girl with few if any friends in the school. The film punctuates that point by showing Rose as the popular girl who's always in the company of friends, while the girls always blow right by Kat without even the slightest acknowledgment. She's hurt even further by the fact that Father Brian won't be attending her singing demonstration. Then she loses her parents to a car crash. She's driven by the belief that something, anything, even if it means possession by an evil demon, has to be better than absolutely nothing.
  • Manipulative Bastard: The demon preys on Kat's loneliness with promises of eternal companionship in order to possess her and then murder Rose, Ms. Prescott and Ms. Drake. It is heavily implied that its true objective, besides causing Kat to lose her soul, was to shut down the Catholic boarding school. It no longer has any use for Kat once the goal of shutting down the school has been accomplished.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Hinted at. Hand in hand with Kat's Villainous Breakdown is the realization that she has become a mass murderer. Soaking in the sight of the boarding school, now turned into a creepy abandoned Old School Building because of her crimes, hits her hard.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Played with. The reason for Rose's stress, and for remaining at the school to start the break, is that she's worried she's become pregnant by her unnamed boyfriend. She lets a friend, and her boyfriend, in on the secret. But her key motivation is to clarify whether or not she actually is pregnant before going home to her parents for the break.
  • Nightmare Face: Kat, when she's possessed and during her first murder spree. Exaggerated after she murders Rose.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The film rolls with this with both Rose and Kat's stories, but especially with Joan and her "father".
  • Old School Building: The boarding school gets shut down and becomes this after Kat's first spree of gruesome murders. It's that much creepier when the audience follows Kat when she breaks into and returns to the school.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me: An almost literal example. Father Brian comes to Kat while she's restrained in a hospital bed, and pulls off what is arguably the easiest exorcism in the history of horror cinema. The demon willingly leaves after just a few words from Father Brian, after having used Kat for his purposes. She pleads with him, "Please don't go." But off he goes, and never to return to Kat.
  • Psychopathic Womanchild: Joan hasn't changed or grown much from the Creepy Child she had been as Kat. She giggles childishly in the washroom after seeing the school photo of Rose. She then briefly wears a Psychotic Smirk as she checks herself out in the mirror, as though she was briefly congratulating herself.
  • Replacement Goldfish: According to his wife, Bill tends to exhibit fatherly tendencies towards any mid-20s woman he comes across, and tell them they remind him of someone he once knew, as Rose in Joan's timeline would be in that age range. It's a source of unhappiness in his marriage.
  • The Reveal: Not only does Kat and Rose's story take place almost a decade before Joan's, but Joan is actually just Kat living under an alias.
  • Round Table Shot: Used inside the school dining room. It follows Mr. Gordon and the state trooper as they go from outside the front door to making their way in through the back door. It climaxes in a Gory Discretion Shot.
  • There Is No Kill like Overkill: Kat often stabs her victims dozens of times in a flurry, even when once is likely enough to inflict a mortal wound, and even when the victims are already dead.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Bill keeps a school picture of Rose.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Kat has a really disturbing one at the very end of the movie. Her efforts to get possessed again by the demon in a vain effort to have a connection to someone, anyone or anything besides herself has been All for Nothing. She realizes that she's now a mass murderer who is likely to spend the rest of her life utterly alone as always, with no friends, no career prospects, on the lam, and vilified by anybody who knows who she is. She breaks down sobbing and screaming in despair.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: The demon in possession of Kat does this at a breakfast with Rose, Ms. Prescott and Ms. Drake in a deliberate show of contempt towards Christian prayer.