Can Someone Please Explain What Happened in the Blackcoat's Daughter?
Blackcoat's Daughter is an intense occult runaway cart of a movie with an interesting idea that is really tricky to unravel.IMDB
2.6Overall Score
Reader Rating: (26 Votes)

Alright! Alright! I’ll write about Blackcoat’s Daughter for the love of all that is good and holy! (See what I did there? Holy? Hah!) I think I’ve gotten over a baker’s dozen specific requests to dive into the Blackcoat’s Daughter in a month? Or less? I even watched it after the first couple loud proclamations. And afterwards just thought, nah. Just not my dish. But there is a mean bait and switch twist to Blackcoat’s Daughter that makes the movie ripe for dissection here on THiNC. So I get it. But the movie deals with a subject matter that is just so over the top and hardcore I was a bit remiss to even touch it.

So yeah, if you have not seen this movie, and you are trying to decide whether to watch it or not, look elsewhere to help you make that decision. But one compliment that I can give Blackcoat’s Daughter is the fact that it has a wicked clever right hook to which I found fun to decipher and figure out. But otherwise? Wow. Yeah. It’s all kinds of intense. And wicked dark too. And not fun dark. Because I love fun dark. But that is not this.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter is the directorial debut of Osgood Perkins. You know, Osgood? As in, Anthony Perkins son? Uh, Anthony Perkins of Norman Bates fame from Alfred Hithcock’s movie Psycho? Better yet? Osgood was the writer and director of the movie, I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House – which I had a ton of fun with. But here we are with Perkins first movie and debut. Why don’t you have a trailer and see what I mean:

I gotta say, pretty much anything A24 puts out is just magical to me. They have a niche and a sweet spot for all kinds of independent film goodness. And this is definitely right up their alley. So kudos to them for continuing to deliver movie after movie of eloquent goodness our way.

Now, if you haven’t seen this movie. GO AWAY. This isn’t a movie review. This isn’t a spoiler free recommendation. This is going to be a deep dive on what happens in the movie, and the whys, the whats, the hows. Basically so that we can all discuss what we think happened here. So once, again, if you haven’t seen The Blackcoat’s Daughter, please do so, but depart until you do. Ok? Because here be dragons.

High Level Overview of Blackcoat’s Daughter

The first thing to understand about Blackcoat’s Daughter is that there are two threads. The first thread is Kat (Kiernan Shipka), Rose (Lucy Boynton), who are living at the Bramford Catholic school.  The second thread is Joan (Emma Roberts), a strange and etherial drifter who’s story may or may not intersect with Kat and Rose’s. Ok? Just knowing that, I’m sure like 70% of you guys coming to look for answers will go… oooohhhhhh. Because that is by far the most confusing bit about this movie. And so, to that end, let’s take each storyline one at a time. And let’s start with Kat and Rose.

The Kat and Rose Storyline Part 1

The Bramford school is heading into the Christmas break. And all the children’s parents are on their way to experience the regular talent show, before heading off to break with their kids. But Kat is having wild flashbacks and visions or maybe nightmares about her mother dying in a car accident. We really have no idea what is going on here. We have zero context. Is this real? Did this happen? Will this happen? We know nothing about why these visions are happening. And Rose? She is a bit of a renegade, who appears to be pregnant?

And it would appear that both Kat and Rose’s parents aren’t going to show. Which sort of means that both girls are stranded for the weekend. And Father Brian has asked Rose to watch over Kat. And as the weirdness of this weekend sort of materializes the two of them sort of go their separate ways. Rose to potentially go get an abortion and Cat to do who knows what. Speaking of which, when Kat comes back, she finds Cat thrashing about in the boiler room for some reason. And eventually Cat and Rose talk, and Cat tells Rose that her parents are dead. And it would appear that Cat is under the disillusion that she will be able to live there at the school with the headmaster. But she seems all kinds of crazy really, to be honest.

The Joan Storyline Part 1 

Joan’s storyline begins with her in a bus station frantically trying to rip a medical bracelet off of her wrist. And having nowhere to go, it’s fairly lucky that a kindly stranger, Bill, offers to give her a ride in the direction that he and his wife are going – in the direction of Bamford. Now, like Cat, Joan is having visions of being shot by someone firing a rifle and hitting her shoulder. And Bill? He’s a Creep. Seriously troubling individual. Deeply religious and dying to help Joan. But why? Why is he trying to help her? Well, because she looks exactly like his daughter, who, something bad happened to 9 years ago. Bill’s wife though? Totally is resentful and hateful towards this woman that Bill is trying to save. “You look nothing like her at all, I can’t see her in you at all.”

The Kat and Rose Storyline Part 2

As the Kat/Rose mega-saga continues, the two girls have dinner with two women that have stayed behind to watch over the campus and the remaining girls. But it is literally, the single most awkward dinner event that has ever taken place. And only slightly more awkward than the dinner is that Kat throws up all over the place immediately after grace. Soon, Mr. Gordon calls with news, and let’s everyone know he’s coming back to the school. And all we know is the Gordon knows something is up. Something not right.

But when Mr. Gordon arrives there is blood absolutely everywhere. Flash back, and we see Kat kill the two women in one of the most gruesome scenes I’ve ever seen. I just kept wondering how it was that they did it so accurately, and so believably. It was shocking really.

The Joan Storyline Part 2

Right in the middle of all of this other chaos, Joan is being driven by Bill, and he tells her that Joan looks like his daughter. So much so, that he pulls out a photo of his lost daughter. And come to find out, it is a photo of Rose. And SNAP, just like that, you should know a number of things. But as the movie is filled with all manner of deliria (plural of delirium?), it is so hard to know what is real and what is fake. But trust me on this one, this one is real. Bill is Rose’s father. Which means? Which means what?!? Come on! It means that Bill and his wife have actually been hunted all along. By who though? Who is this Joan gal?!? We’ll get to that in a moment.

The Kat / Joan Storyline nexus

Kat takes the heads of the two women and Rose down to the boiler room that she was undulating in front of earlier in the movie. She believes that Satan or some demon is requesting the heads of the women. Including Kat’s, which she had gotten progressively consumed by over the course of the movie. And actually, more specifically, with her entire family. And after Mr. Gordon finds the grizzly scene he contacts the police. And when confronted, and Kat doesn’t put down the knife, the cop shoots Kat in the shoulder… thus informing us of where the visions in Joan’s timeline were coming from. She then finds her self locked up in a psychiatric ward for nine years.

Bramford’s priest comes to see Kat in the hospital and performs an exorcism, wherein a horned figure appears. And Kat says something to the effect of “Don’t go” to the figure. And then for the next nine years she lives until she is able to leave the facility.

Blackcoat’s Daughter Chronologically Explained

I am nearly certain some of you are still spinning a little bit. Wait, WHAT?!? But maybe it’d be better if I gave it to you in chronological order? Oh, and in bullet format? Everything is more clear in bulleted lists! hahaha.

  1. Kat’s parents die in a fiery car crash
  2. Kat somehow gets accepted to Bramford
  3. Kat and Rose spend the holiday together
  4. We learn that Rose is lying about her pregnancy
  5. Kat kills two staff people and Rose
  6. She severs their heads and worships in the boiler room
  7. Cops shoot Kat and have her admitted to psychiatric facility
  8. Her demon is cast out, and Kat is crushed
  9. 9 years later, attempting to reconnect with this demon she finds Kat’s parents
  10. And she brutally murders them and carries their heads to the boiler room
  11. She attempts to reconnect with her demon, but fails
  12. Kat is scene crying and broken that she had killed two people for nothing

Does that make more sense? Sure, there is a lot more going on here than that, but I think these are the most important keys of the movie in order to understand the overarching principles of what happened. Make more sense? Great.

Final Thoughts on the Blackcoat’s Daughter

Like I said at the start, I wasn’t a huge fan of this film. Oh 90% I dug. But the demons and the satan bits, I wasn’t a huge fan of. But, it being a Perkins film makes all kind of sense to me. This is definitely a related movie to I Am The Pretty Thing… both had similar feelings and tones. I did love the chaos of the two story lines and the two different years being played out simultaneously. Very similar to aspects of Westworld. If you haven’t seen Westworld, go experience it for yourself and see if you can find what I am referring to. Totally worth while. Anyway… this movie had some really good headjukes happening in it that even Perkins’ sophomore movie didn’t have. But I just wasn’t a fan of the extreme and senseless darkness involved. But maybe that’s just me? What did you think of it?

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29 Responses

  1. Alicia

    But the demons and the satan bits ARE the movie, aren’t they? 😉 As a horror fan, I loved the pitch black tone of this movie, and I love that they backed it up with some truly horrific, scary gore. That being said, I can see how it would be off-putting to people not as into horror. Really enjoying your blog, too!

  2. Taylor Holmes

    I am glad my blog rates up there with horror films for you! That’s a true compliment… apparently! hahaha.

    I wasn’t saying that Perkins shouldn’t have made it with demons. I’m just saying that those bits aren’t my favorite. You love salad, I don’t like salad. I’ll stay over here in the pizza line instead thank you! hahah. But I adored the right hook of the different story lines.

    Thanks for participating in the discussion though Alicia. I appreciate your feedback and ideas.

  3. Twelveatone

    Thank you so much for the review ! While watching the Film I thought Kat was speaking about Rose’s parents (Saying “They’re dead”) but maybe the French translation wasn’t accurate at all.
    I genuinly think that Rose wasn’t lying saying she’s pregnant but was really thinking it until she did a prengnancy test.
    As for me Kat crying at the end was because she was waiting for her parents to come (which kind of explain the fact that “Joan” is the one that follow here father back)
    And then, last and not least, I wonder if we can considerate it can be a film involving schizophrenia ?
    What the thing with Kat and the calendar saying “Mom&Dad” ?? Is this Rose calendar ? The day Kat’s parent died ? Or she thought they would come this day because she kinda exchanged her’s and Rose’s parents ?

  4. Niels

    There’s so many things incorrect about the description of this film I don’t even know where to start…

  5. Jen

    Thank you @Niels for saying that because I thought the exact same thing when I read @Twelveatone’s comment.

  6. Jamie

    I just watched it during this weekend. Of all the reviews and synopsis and analyses that I’ve read, it seems most people came to the conclusion that the supernatural elements were actually real.
    Personally, as someone with a background in psychology I saw it differently. The demonic visions and the possessions I wrote off as the disturbed imagination of a (perhaps inherently) unstable and emotionally fragile teenager who was very impressionable.
    The reason I say this is because, as best as I can tell, the only time she began experiencing anything remotely demonic was after Rose started telling her the stories about the Devil worshiping sisters in the boiler room. As someone who was perhaps lonely, and disconnected, she may have internalized this somehow. Perhaps also as a way to cope with the sudden feeling of abandonment she felt at losing her parents.
    Which brings me to the only element which I believe is supernatural, which is the vision she had of her parents and the accident. Maybe she has a certain degree of prescient ability. And the shock and the loss which she experienced drove her to look for a new form of attachment, though why she would look toward a demonic experience to fill that void is beyond me.
    Maybe she’s one of those “dark” emo kids who’s secretly all about death and doom and gloom. Who knows?
    As for the ending, upon realizing that the good samaritans who helped her was the parents of the girl she had murdered years prior, she saw that as the perfect opportunity to somehow reconnect with her Demon lord by offering them to him as sacrifice. When she failed, she broke down realizing she was truly alone. But I imagine, guilt or remorse was never a factor in her sadness or anguish in those final scenes.
    It was simply the realization she was truly and utterly alone. Sad.

  7. St.Million

    I’d like to think it was all just in her head too. But that doesn’t quite make sense, since; Kat experienced the premonition of her mothers/parents death at the beginning of the film which is somewhat inexplicable aside from supernatural means. And she was also clearly seeing ‘something’ in the scene where she talks to the headmaster afterwards. She keeps looking off to the side and smiling. Both of these things happen before Rose mentions anything about Devil worshipers.

  8. Paddy

    I’m sure there’s also something standing over Kat’s shoulder at the beginning of the film when she’s in Rose’s room looking through her stuff.

  9. Lisa

    This movie was insanely confusing and I felt like I spent way too much effort trying to pay attention to every detail so it would make sense. In a way I feel that alienates the viewer and makes it less enjoyable. I usually like films like this but this one did not sit well with me. You made a few switcharoo mistakes with the names in your take on it as well but I like what you have to say and it was helpful to separate the timelines. I don’t know if there were actual demons involved or if this girl was just very disturbed and lonely. So it could be about the supernatural or about someone who has very severe mental illness. Also, Rose did believe she was pregnant but there was a scene toward the end before she was killed where she was happy in the bathroom after she realized she got her period. My other issue is that who would let a killer like that out of the hospital in 9 years? Just doesn’t seem likely.

    • Taylor Holmes

      I’m always screwing up names. If you tell me where, I’ll fix them. Sorry about that. I literally think I have name aphasia (anomic aphasia literally is a thing… and I am claiming it here and now.)

  10. Jay

    I was thinking that maybe Kat and Joan are the same people. That’s why Joan was having flashbacks of getting shot by officer when she was younger going to branford school (or whatever). She was in a mental hospital for 9 yrs and then she got out and went back to the school but not after coincidentally meeting the parents of the daughter she killed 9 yrs earlier

  11. Valdo

    OMG! Emma Roberts being Kiernan at old age?! I find that hard to swallow. But then, its a movie, like magic, trying to confuse the viewer. Thanks for this wonderful explanation.

  12. Anna

    Joan is actually Kat nine years later. I read the actual explanation of the movie.

  13. Anna

    Joan is actually Kat nine years later. I read the actual explanation of the movie.

  14. Victoroony

    Horrible movie. Joan doesn’t pull off a 9 yr age gap for Kat. They look to close in age. I followed the movie correctly then…and I’m disappointed. I gave it a 1 star, I wish I could have given it no stars. It was a waste of time.

  15. Claire

    If the filmmaker truly wished to portray Joan as Kat 9 years later, it’s a complete joke. They’re obviously two different people who look nothing alike and the same age. But if you interpret as the demon who got exorcised out of Kat moved to another patient in the ward (Joan) then it’s way less stupid. I hope that’s what they meant. Otherwise it’s really dumb.

  16. Vivian

    You guys know Emma Roberts (Joan) and Kiernan Shipka (Kat) are very close to 9 years apart, right? Like, 8 years and 9 months. Pretty spot on with the timeline, to be honest.

  17. Claire

    That may be the case in reality, but in perception they look very close to the same age and are obviously two different people. I can see trying to pass off two actors if there’s a huge time gap like 20 years, but teen to 20s is just silly. Nobody would become unrecognizable in 9 years.

  18. Jammy

    I don’t mean to be funny, but you just sound a bit salty that you didn’t get it to be perfectly honestly haha. There were so many different things linking the two characters.

    – Both wearing red tops
    – Joan’s flashbacks which are later seen as Kat’s scenes.
    – The inappropriate laugh/smile
    – The fact that it introduced her as “Joan” yet it showed a scene of her killing a woman and stealing her driving license with the name “Joan” on it, so we knew “Joan” wasn’t her real name
    – The gunshot wound
    – Extremely similar hairstyles
    – The fact that she knew Rose from the 9 year old picture of her

    Seriously, he put in PLENTY of clues scattered throughout the movie to show they were the same person. Especially with the two actors being 9 years apart in real life, I think your criticisms are way off.

  19. Brandon

    @Jammy. I 100% agree. If you do not realize that Kat and Joan are the same person, then I understand how you could be left in the dark. I think Roberts emulates an aged Shipka near flawlessly. The reason I say “near” is only because if it was flawless, the viewer would realize too early on that the two actresses are playing the same role during different timelines. Could the movie offer a more in depth explanation of how certain things unfolded? Sure. However, a good horror movie, in my opinion, is one that does not end with complete viewer satisfaction, but rather is one that leaves the viewer uneasy with a lack of closure. It is the all of the unanswered questions which lead to discussions like this one here. If everything was answered and completely understood, then no one would be talking about it.

  20. eb

    If Kat and Joan are the same person, how is it possible that Rose’s parents don’t know what their daughter’s murderer looks like??

  21. Mary Ann Thomas

    I just watched it. It is confusing. The last 45 minutes are better. To clarify because some comments are correct, some not, in my opinion. Joan is Kat 9 years later after strangling Joan taking her identity and escaping mental institution. When Kat shout by offer Priest exorcised demon against her will. At end she is not happy that her sacrifice of Rose’s parents’ heads did not reconnect her to her “father” Satan. Explains bawling at end. Oh yeah, she is crazy delusional.

  22. Ryan

    EB, makes an excellent point. Highly unlikely the father would want to help the girl who killed his daughter rather than strangle her to death the minute he looked in her eyes.

  23. Michele

    Interesting analysis, but I’m afraid I disagree with some of it. Sorry to be tardy to the party, and I’m sure you won’t read this comment. But I feel that there are some errors in your dissertation, even though it’s a good read. First, it takes place the week after Valentine’s day. We know this because when Kat is marking off her calendar, we see Valentine’s day crossed off. We also know that her parents are alive and well because she has the day they arrive to pick her up marked on the calendar, circled with a heart. So, she must have been looking forward to seeing them at some point. We also see the reflection of a demon in the window, indicating that Kat is being influenced by something sinister.

    Next, when she talks to the priest about him leaving for the week, she seems very interested in where he is going. I’m not sure what this means. Perhaps she wanted him to stay because she was hoping his presence would protect her from the demon, but her smile implies the opposite. He’ll be gone for a whole week, and there is no priesthood authority in the entire school to keep the devil at bay.

    Rose is not lying about her pregnancy. In the scene before she dies, she goes to the bathroom and it’s heavily implied that she got her period. The look of relief on her face in a lone bathroom shows that she seriously thought she might be pregnant.

    In your summary, you say that Joan/Kat hunted Rose’s parents. I disagree with that. I believe it was a coincidence that the two found each other, or “undivine intervention” hinted at by the later-to-be-revealed ironic discussion of God’s will when Bill comes to Joan/Kat’s hotel room. There evidence to support that she didn’t know who Bill was as it is shown in the scene when Bill gives Joan/Kat the picture of his daughter, Rose. Joan/Kat then she goes to the bathroom and tries not to laugh. It implies that she can’t believe that the father of the girl that she killed is giving her a ride and that she didn’t realize who he was until that moment.

    There are a few things I didn’t understand. What was so great about the boiler? I mean, was Satan hiding inside of it? Was it a gateway to Hell? If so, was she trying to open it? Is that why she was obsessed with not leaving the school? Were the nun’s Satan worshippers? Is that how Kat succumbed to evil? Did Kat think that the Devil was her real dad? Was she upset at the end because she was separated from the Devil, or did she feel duped? Did the dream at the beginning mean that the Devil showered her that her parents were going to die and that the Devil was going to adopt her? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

    Anyway, the movie was okay. More bleak than scary. Although it had a few good moments. And your interpretation was worth the read. You mixed up spelling Kat’s name with Cat a few times. And you mixed up Rosa and Kat under their part 1 storyline. Happens to me when I’m editing, and I change sentences and then and I miss a section. So I get it. But it’s confusing and you might want to fix that.

    Meh movie. Fun to analyze!

  24. Prof. A. Black

    This is just … So terrible. ..
    Am I to understand people look up to this blog when it’s not even half assed trying ?
    Anomia isn’t not knowing people’s names.
    Just bother to find stuff out before you run your mouth, it would literally take 20 more seconds and make you actually someone worthy of having people‘s attention. As it is, this is just another dark corner of the web where you can glimpse of who influences whom and just how Shallow and hopeless the next generations are. Probably…

    [The rest redacted out of politeness to all of humanity. I won’t put up with people just spewing hate for hate’s sake. Just unbelievable – Taylor]

    • Taylor Holmes

      Mr. Black,
      You are 100% wrong – quoting from Anomia: Anomia is a brain disorder that makes it hard to remember the names of people and objects. Anomia can sometimes be a symptom of a tumor or stroke. Anomia is a very specific kind of memory loss, which makes suffers remember people but forget their names, or know what something is but be unable to come up with what it’s called. It’s usually caused by some brain trauma, like an accident or cancer. Although there is a word spelled the same way in Greek, anomia is formed from two Latin roots, a-, “without,” and nomen, “name.”

      And the rest of your comment has been stricken for just general incivility and overt rudeness. Seriously consider getting connected with a therapist. I literally mean that with all the kindness and hope I can possible respond with. Whether you are just trolling or playing… doesn’t matter. You truly need to talk to somebody. Heck, don’t want to pay for a counselor, feel free to email me for my cell phone number. Happy to have you obliterate me personally in the hopes that you will stop spewing your hate generally across the face of the planet.


  25. Lisa

    Some people are so miserable in their own lives, they can’t help themselves. There will always be a few.

  26. Lisa

    Dear Professor,
    I read your comment in it’s entirety as it went to my inbox and let me just say, the world also thanks you for not procreating.


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