This striking debut feature from director Osgood ‘Oz’ Perkins takes us into a disturbing world of perpetual winter, where dark secrets lay in wait and nothing is as it seems.
Set in an all-girl Catholic boarding school, February follows the story of two girls, Rose and Kat are forced to become companions during a harsh Canadian winter. As they find themselves left to their own devices at the school during the holidays, an unknown evil presence closes in on them. Elsewhere, a disheveled young girl escapes from a mental institute and makes her way towards the school.
Performances are solid all round, with the contrast between Rose and Kat’s personalities (Rose is astute and independent whilst the younger Kat is quiet and unassuming) providing an intriguing and magnetic on-screen dynamic. The sadness and isolation of the two girls almost oozes from every frame, a mood conjured up by a haunting score and a Lynchian eye for scene setting and lingering on unearthly atmospheres. Emma Roberts is particularly impressive because she shows off the breadth of her range whilst breaking free of the air head characters she plays on American Horror Story and more recently Scream Queens.
The pace of the film is a slow burn, but the burn is hot as hell. It works because the mystery central to the film is slowly revealed, keeping us on tenterhooks throughout. It’s actually very refreshing not to have a jump scare every two seconds and it makes things really eerie without you knowing why exactly, which is the secret to transcending scares into fears and as pieces of the puzzle slowly slide together, the tension builds to a bloody and shocking climax.
What we’re left with is a feature that resembles a steadier moving classic-era Argento movie with the unnerving psychological horror and use of location-as-character of The Shining mixed in for good measure. February is a really strong debut. I sense great things to come.
4 / 5
FEBRUARY is directed by Oz Perkins and stars Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka and Lauren Holly.