Hitting DirecTV exclusively on February 16th is Osgood Perkins’ The Blackcoat’s Daughter, an atmospheric thriller about demonic possession and the emotional aftermath that follows an attack at a private school. The film stars Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, and Lucy Boynton, who all deliver incredible performances.
Daily Dead recently had the opportunity to speak with Perkins about what inspired his approach to The Blackcoat’s Daughter, his experiences collaborating with his talented ensemble, and whether or not he’ll be returning to the world of horror for his third directorial project (his other feature film, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, is currently available on Netflix).
Look for The Blackcoat’s Daughter on DirecTV beginning February 16th, with a subsequent theatrical rollout to follow on March 31st from A24.
Congrats on the film, Oz. What I enjoyed about this film is that it has a lot of thematic elements to it that we’ve seen before in horror, but your approach to them feels very unique. Can you discuss your approach and what inspired you to take this direction with The Blackcoat’s Daughter?
Osgood Perkins: Like how anything happens, writing a script is kind of like doing a crossword puzzle where now that you have “2 Across,” you can work on trying to get “5 Down,” or maybe even “11 Across.” For me, it all started very mundanely as me asking myself, “What do I want to see?” Because at the end of the day, our responsibilities as the writer and/or the director is to put forth [work] representative of their own tastes. Maybe that sounds bland, but as I’ve now made these two movies, it all really comes down to “what do I like?” And I want to make the movies I want to see.
And as far as horror movies go, they’re not implicitly my thing, as I haven’t been a fan of a lot of horror movies that have come out as of late. Older horror movies, though, are what appeal to me, and many of those classic horror movies have become a lot of fans’ favorite movies for very good reason. In this case, I just happened to sit down and start writing something right at the time I watched two different movies in particular: Let the Right One In and my friend Bryan Bertino’s film, The Strangers.
Both of those films struck me almost like a package deal, where I found both of them to be very sad. They were both very human stories, but they just happened to be wearing the vestments of the horror movie. Neither one of those films were simply just a horror movie. That idea felt really robust to me, this idea of a horror movie that isn’t just about scaring people, it’s about focusing in on the human experience that’s ultimately sad.
So I approached the story semi-autobiographically, because I lost both of my parents, and this movie was an opportunity to look at that a little bit. It’s about this immutable reality, because we’re all going to lose someone we love eventually. And the fact that it involves the devil and girls stabbing each other with knives, those genre imperatives are fun and compelling, and they get you to where you want to go, but the real hook of the story is the idea of parental abandonment. Everything grew out of that idea.
You have three very talented women front and center in this movie. How was it working with Emma, Lucy, and Kiernan on the film?
Osgood Perkins: The most that one could hope for when you’re making movies of any kind is that you’re able to lean on a lot of luck, and you lean on being able to get the right people. And when Emma read the script and agreed to be a part of it, she was the one who recommended Kiernan to me. I didn’t know who she was prior to this, just because I hadn’t watched Mad Men. So Kiernan got the script on a Monday, and she then called me on Tuesday and said she wanted to be a part of this.
[Spoiler Warning] Kiernan just understood from the beginning what was needed, and I never really told her what to do, just because it was my first movie and also, I don’t really know if it’s the business of a director to tell an actor how to act. It just seems crazy because I’m not going to know a better way of doing it than Kiernan will. What I did try to do with her, though, was to walk her through what she was seeing, because her character is plagued with these visions that only she can see. So many of her experiences in this film are private. The process of her being overtaken by this evil force is happening just between the two of them.
When you get the right actor who knows how to use their eyes and their face as well as she does, Kiernan knew precisely what to do to make Kat this compelling character. In fact, originally we had created some makeup for her to wear once she undergoes her transformation, and we even did a test run with her wearing the makeup, but I decided that we didn’t really need it because I thought she was just so much more compelling to watch. I was fortunate. I got lucky in a lot of places on this movie, and that especially included our cast. [End of Spoiler Warning]
Before we go, I wanted to ask what’s coming up for you? You mentioned earlier that horror movies weren’t necessarily your thing, and yet here you are, after successfully directing two very strong genre projects. It seems like there are certain things about the genre that keep drawing you back in.
Osgood Perkins: Yeah, it’s funny. These first two movies have been what I call “kind of horror movies,” as they beat with a little bit more of a humanistic heart and tend to be more emotionally-driven instead of being outright scary. I’ve got one more of those in me that I’m writing right now, and that’s another spec that comes right out of my own psyche. I’m going to continue to keep doing the projects that feel right to me.