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The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a thrilling film that centers on three women — played by Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, and Lucy Boynton.
As Osgood “Oz” Perkins’ directorial debut (yes, he’s Anthony Perkins’ son), this film received mixed responses. But one thing’s for certain — the viewers are very confused by what happened. And it’s understandable why; the film combines demonic possession and mind-bending mysteries, all wrapped up in a gory bow.
In addition, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is different than your average horror flick. Two different stories play out at the same time, and it’s difficult knowing what happens until you’re at the very end of the movie.
We’ll make this easy for you and explain what happened. Keep in mind, this explainer post contains spoilers.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter Explained – The Three Storylines
Because there are three main characters, we will cover their three stories separately before getting into the ending. This will help prepare us for the explainer section.
Rose (played by Lucy Boynton) is one of two characters who live in the boarding school (Katherine is the other). Rose is a pretty and nice girl, but she has a rebellious streak. We discover early on that she sneaks out with her boyfriend and she tells her friend that she suspects she’s pregnant.
While all of the students’ parents are picking them up for winter break, Rose is left behind. She tells the school’s headmaster it’s because she gave her parents the wrong pickup day on accident. In reality, she told them to not pick her up to attempt to hide her pregnancy.
One other student is staying back — Katherine. Rose was instructed to stay with Katherine. Instead, Rose runs off with her boyfriend.
Before she leaves, she talks to Katherine while they’re in her room. Rose starts gossiping, explaining the two nuns worship Satan.
When Rose returns from her date (breaking things off with him due to her potential pregnancy), she finds Katherine bowing around in the cellar. She gets Katherine out of the cellar, and you can still that she changed drastically since Rose left.
So, what happened to Katherine (played by Kiernan Shipka)? Well, let’s look into her story.
Katherine was expecting her parents to pick her up. However, she had a dream/premonition of their death. When they never picked her up, she suspected the worst. However, Rose and the nuns tried to calm her down.
But why does Katherine know her parents died? After her premonition, she starts seeing a shadowy figure with horns. She even starts receiving strange calls from an unknown man. He tells her that her parents are dead. Then, he starts to command she kills people.
From here, Katherine visits the cellar for the first time. After Rose forces her into bed, she starts thrashing around again.
Joan (played by Emma Roberts) is the only one of the three characters who does not attend the boarding school. We don’t know much about her background or who she is, except some flashbacks that show she was at some type of mental hospital.
Overall, Joan seems troubled. She’s dirty and is only wearing a light coat in the freezing cold. We see her ripping off her hospital bracelet. Bruises cover her body and she looks overall roughed up. She’s sitting at the bus station when a man, Bill, offers to give her a ride. She accepts.
Storyline Part 2
What we don’t know yet is all three of these girls and their stories are intertwined. Here are notable scenes.
Joan: The Restaurant
Bill and his wife are very kind to Joan, letting her sleep in her own hotel room and treating her to dinner. As they’re at the restaurant, Bill explains to Rose that she reminds him of his daughter. He tells Joan that his daughter died ten years ago and she would be Joan’s age by now.
Bill takes out a picture of his daughter. It’s Rose.
Rose and Katherine: The Dinner Table
The nuns return to the school and have dinner with Rose and Katherine. Katherine starts acting odd. She refuses to participate in saying grace and throws up suddenly.
The nuns rush her into the nurse’s office, where Katherine calls one of the nuns a c**t. Horrified, one of the nuns scolds her. During this time is when they receive a call from Headmaster Gordon. He explains that he’s suddenly returning to school.
Shortly, we see Headmaster Gordon returning with police. But when he gets to the school, it’s completely deserted. And there’s blood everywhere.
What Happens Next
After these events occur, we see a series of events.
First, Katherine kills the two nuns. She stabs both multiple times with a knife. Then, she kills Rose the same way. Except, we see her lifting up Rose’s hair and takes the knife to her neck.
The next scene is Katherine in the boiler room. She has three severed heads with her and she’s worshipping Satan.
As she’s in the cellar, a police officer approaches her. She has a knife in her hands and exclaims “hail Satan!” The police officer commands her to put down the knife. When she refuses, he shoots her.
The next scene is Katherine in what looks like a psychiatric facility, bound to the bed. Headmaster Gordon is there and exorcises the demon out of her. Instead of acting relieved, however, Katherine is crushed. She asks the demon (or Satan) to never leave her.
From here, we’re met with Joan again. After Bill shows her the picture of Rose, Joan excuses herself to the restroom. She finds a knife on a plate and swiftly takes it.
After the restaurant, Bill’s wife confronts her, talking about Rose. They start driving shortly after. Eventually, Joan asks Bill to pull over and says she’s feeling sick. Bill’s wife, sensing something dangerous, begs Bill to keep driving. Bill pulls over to the side, where Joan kills both of them. She decapitates them and puts their heads in suitcases.
The end of the movie shows Joan arriving at the school. She enters the cellar with the two severed heads. She attempts to summon the demon but fails. The last scene is Joan crying hysterically.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter Explained
Are you still confused by some of the events that occurred in this film? Here’s a more in-depth look at The Blackcoat’s Daughter.
Joan and Katherine are the same person. After her successful exorcism, Katherine was admitted to a mental institution. She ended up escaping, taking on a new identity as Joan. She actually stole one of the nun’s ID cards, whose name was Joan.
There are different insights into what connects Joan and Katherine. Viewers state the two characters are connected by their devotion to Satan; however, Director Perkins states that Katherine simply grew up to become Joan. Perkins’ interpretation works, since the actresses, Roberts and Shipka, are nine years apart in age in real life.
Why Is Joan Crying?
The last scene is Joan crying after she fails to summon the demon. Why is this? There are a couple of theories.
The most obvious theory is she wanted more than anything to be re-possessed by the demon. After her parents died, she likely felt alone. Having the demon with her likely provided her some sense of security. This is why she begged the demon to not go after the exorcism.
In addition, she waited nine years to find her demon. When he wouldn’t appear, she felt devastated.
Another interesting theory that somewhat pertains to the previous theory is she killed two people for no reason.
If the demon wouldn’t accept the heads as a sacrifice, their deaths were for nothing. Maybe she’s crying because she felt regret, especially since Bill and his wife did a lot for her during their short time together.
It’s 2021. Why are people in horror films still worshipping Satan? And what significance does Satan have in this film?
We can look at two different answers: Perkins and a general interest/captivation with the Devil himself.
Perkins has moved on to make more films after The Blackcoat’s Daughter. Examples include I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House and Gretel & Hansel. His other films center around Satanic imagery and witchcraft, especially Gretel & Hansel.
Perkins isn’t the only director with an affinity for evil. In addition, women are often correlated with Satan in these situations. For example, not only are two (technically one) protagonists Satan worshippers, but female characters dominate the film.
It’s important to note that Perkins’ representation of Satan is different in this film than in similar movies. Instead of a detailed figure, we merely see a shadow with horns. He also only appears sparingly, seemingly only hiding in the corner.
Our Satanic figure here is more of an observer than a real character. We feel his presence more than we see him, which makes him that more mysterious in this film.
Why does Satan choose to possess Katherine? This also has different theories. Some think she’s an easy target. Unlike pretty and popular Rose, Katherine is a quiet and awkward kid. However, she does have her snarky and rebellious side, even questioning the headmaster about his trip to Albany.
Another theory is that Satan has a general interest in her.
Many viewers think her parents’ death was intentional, as a way to lure her in. We see at the beginning of the film, Katherine is counting down the days to her parents picking her up. When they never arrived, she was distraught.
She obviously has a connection to her parents, outside of the typical love we feel toward our family. Without them, she’s lost and alone. She needs the love of another to feel complete, which is where her new demon friend comes in.
Many other viewers believe that what Rose said was true — the two nuns did worship Satan and summoned him long ago. He had been walking the hallways of the school but didn’t find the nuns were suitable to control. He was looking for a better target, which he found in Katherine.
Answer: This depends on personal preference. Generally yes, it is scary. Because of the R rating, violence, its Satanic/evil content, it’s not suitable for children. But if you’re an avid horror fan, you won’t find this film as creepy compared to other films.
There are some scary parts in the film, but no jump scares. It’s a very haunting film in a stylistic sense, and many scenes will stand out because of it.
Answer: Maybe you’re not confused about a movie, but about the title. So was I. Doing some digging, “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” signifies a woman who gives herself over to evil; in this case, demonic possessions.
Joan/Katherine gave herself over to Satan so she wouldn’t be alone anymore. Her devotion is so strong to where she would kill to have her demon. When her demon wouldn’t come back, she became hysterical. We see Joan all alone, which is what she feared.
Answer: While the setting of the film is in upstate New York, they actually filmed the movie in a small agricultural college based in Ottawa. They chose this setting since it was “on the decline,” matching the overall setting of a school being overrun by evil spirits.
Answer: An hour and 35 minutes.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter Explained & Similar Films
The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a creepy film that holds lots of mystery, so much so to where many viewers are confused by the plot. Don’t worry, there are lots of other evil and entertaining films out there.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter is available on Netflix. But if you want a complete list of Netflix thrillers, we created the list just for you. If you prefer TV shows, we recommend watching Penny Dreadful and all of these similar shows.
And continue reading our blog for even more film and show recommendations!