The Blackcoat's Daughter, a tense horror film that snares you in its dream-like web and keeps ahold of you long after the house lights have gone up, is a surreal piece of art that manages to indirectly reference many real stories while also paying homage to the moody horror films that came before it.
When you began to pull apart the puzzle pieces of true stories, creepy mysteries, and urban legends that make up the haunting narrative of The Blackcoat’s Daughter, you realize that desolate winter world of two teenage girls alone in a school dormitory isn’t so far off from where you live right now. Don’t worry - if you’re trying to avoid spoilers about this incredibly secretive film, you won’t find them here. But you may find a primer for a deeper understanding of one of the most inventive nail-biters of 2016.
While The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a wholly original film featuring twists that don’t even register as twists until you’re lying awake at night going over the scenes of the film for the fiftieth time, it owes a great deal to Roman Polanski and to a few haunting legends that can be found across the planet, as well as to real stories of teenagers being absolute monsters. While it’s not likely that every story on here informed Oz Perkins while writing and directing his debut film, it’s undeniable that some of these myths, legends, and mysteries made their way into the fabric of the film.
One of the most obvious influences on The Blackcoat's Daughter is Roman Polanski's Satanic masterpiece Rosemary's Baby. In fact, the boarding school that the girls attend is called Bramford, which shares a name with the snazzy apartment building that acts as the backdrop to all the spooky shenanigans in the 1968 film.
In Peru, a group of almost 100 school children became "possessed" by a demonic spirit that made them foam at the mouth, have seizures, and feel as if they were being followed by a shadow man. An anonymous 13-year-old girl told the media:
"Several children from different classrooms fainted at the same time. I got nauseous and started vomiting. I heard voices. A man in black chased me and wanted to touch me."
What's up with all these mass demonic possessions in South America? While playing a game of "Charlie Charlie" (basically a type of magic 8-ball with pencils), a group of 22 girls between the ages of 12 and 15 allegedly became possessed by a demonic spirit that had them foaming at the mouth and talking about a man dressed in black who had something interesting to say.
One of the girls recalls her vision of the man in black: "There was a man dressed in black and he said that a child had the sheet with red letters and if he burned the sheet, we kill them all."
So whatever you do, don't burn the sheet.
From J.D. Salinger to The Smiths, popular culture is filled with stories of boarding school being the worst. Whether it's a school for boys or for girls, there are bullies, awful teachers, and evil headmasters.
It doesn't take a genius to realize that stories of emotional torment at boarding school feed into the horror of The Blackcoat's Daughter.