February/The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)
- Lucy Boynton as Rose.
- Kiernan Shipka, as Kat
- Emma Roberts, as Joan
- James Remar, as Bill
- Lauren Holly, as Linda
- Emma Holzer, as Lizzy
Director: Osgood Perkins (the son of Anthony Perkins – yes, Norman Bates himself)
Boarding schools are ripe for demonic possession and dastardly plots in general, given the potent mix of hormones, schoolgirl-age jealousies and extreme isolation. ‘February’ takes that scenario one step further, as we follow young ‘Kat’ during a lonely winter break at ‘The Bramford School’. We also also follow the story of ‘Rose’, who’s hitchhiking through the snow with a kindly older couple. As Kat’s unease grows worse during the break, and Joan’s paranoia increases, it’s well worth holding on to learn how these stories converge and how it all links back to the sinister forces lurking in the chilly, semi-abandoned school.
Making a big positive out of its low key vibe, February (also known as The Blackcoat’s Daughter) steadfastly refuses to rush towards its most shocking moments, preferring instead to chill you with endless views of untouched white snow, then glorying in the pitch dark shadows within the frigid school’s buildings. With a muted, groaning soundtrack designed to stimulate unease (but, sorry guys, on the first watch it nearly sent me to sleep) calling this movie ‘bleak’ would be an understatement. It’s dark yet pale and it’s deeply unhappy, and that’s just the schoolgirls. It has surprisingly sympathetic adults too, who are simply unable to comprehend the true darkness at hand.
And oh boy, is there a lot of darkness, in the film and the plot. Expect no primary colours from this at all, just austere shades of bright white and municipal blues, though it has dodged the grimy greenish horror filter that a lot of genre films used to favour. It does make the inevitable splashes of scarlet blood pop from the screen, which works well, and hopefully you’re still watching by then.
So even if I prefer little more warmth and glee in my horror movies, I really want to love this film more than I do, and there is plenty to appreciate. The ending’s gut punch resolution is definitely worth hanging on for, and requires some attention to the subtle clues and a spot of emotional empathy to really figure out – why the fuck did she even do that? Recommended, if you want a low key, creepy horror. In fact, February has kind of grown on me. So if you give it a try, just remember that it saves most of its boldest moves for last. Worth sticking with.
I’m not kidding, I really wanted to love this. It puts me to sleep most times i try to get into it, but that’s more my fault than this film’s. The fact that Kat (now Joan) desperately wants the demon back within her, to take away her utter loneliness, is a view on demonic possession that I hadn’t really seen before. The possession wasn’t entirely bad for Kat – definitely less so for the people she murdered – .I suppose the creature’s presence kept her company. That’s what I really liked about it’s ending.
But the execution of this intriguing angle felt so bleak – it was good but so deeply depressing. Especially as the demon doesn’t come back. It isn’t like ‘Joan’ and the demon then go on a wacky road trip, murdering as they go. Damn, I’d pay to see that. Then again, that’s the kind of sadness that horror can help us to face at its darkest core. It questions if being alone or possessed and crazy is…somehow better than the isolation of the school. So think which one would really scare you? It sums up how a lot of horror fans may feel about loving the genre, too. When everything in the real world seems so bad that only the Exorcist can cheer you up, then horror is a predictable safe haven with like-minded crazy people. And sometimes, you know, that’s all we need to make life bearable…
A few other observations:
- Was it meant to be ‘the Black Goat’s Daughter’ instead of ‘Blackcoat’? Considering the appearance of the demon once or twice, maybe? Hmm…? OK, yes, it probably just has something to do with the clergy…
- The business with chopping off heads for the demon worship now makes me think this could tie in with Hereditary. Maybe they involve the same demon without realising it, which is why ‘Joan’ remains abandoned by her monster right the end.
- The twist – OK, more of a ‘reveal’ as we finally understand who ‘Joan’ is and then learn why she murders the kindly old couple too.
- The bleak atmosphere is so well done you can almost reach out and touch the cold air.
- Doesn’t scream for your attention all the time.
- Almost no jumpscares!
- On a meta note, I still get a little kick out of the director being the awkward, tall guy who helps out Elle in Legally Blonde.
- The twists – love it or hate it, and whether of not the two actresses are convincingly the same person in the end.
- This movie is so. Goddamn. Bleaaaaaak.
- It’s possibly too quiet to hold your attention more than once….
- The unremitting darkness and tortuous loneliness amid the endless piles of snow and omigod jeeeeez we get it already…