February – Oz Perkins, 15, 2015
Netflix rates it: 1/5
I rate it: 2/5
February, also known by revised title The Blackcoat’s Daughter, follows Kat (Kiernan Shipka) and Rose (Lucy Boynton) as they remain at their prestigious boarding school over the winter break. Both left waiting for their parents to pick them up, Rose and Kat are reluctantly forced to converse and put up with each other, however it’s not long before they’re both left with worrying thoughts over strange goings-on in the otherwise empty school. Worse still, Kat can’t seem to stop the slew of menacing visions she begins encountering. Meanwhile, Joan (Emma Roberts) is trying to make her way to the school with the help of concerned passers-by, Bill (James Remar) and Linda (Lauren Holly).
Despite clearly belonging to the horror genre, February is unlike typical horror films in so many ways. The majority of the film’s run time appears to be setting up the back story and foreshadowing the events that occur nearer to the end of the film. Although there are some horror film conventions, such as the unnerving music and classic use of a dark abandoned location, overall the film seems to lean away from stereotypical horror tropes. Rather than being a fast-paced, gory horror of the Saw variety, February is much more of a slow-burner. It takes a while to get to the real action and while yes, there is some gore near the end, it definitely relies on heavy suspense and chilling camera shots for the most part.
In this way, February is a particularly aesthetically pleasing film, with beautifully framed camera shots throughout, which is nice to find in a horror film. The washed out, bleak colour scheme fits perfectly with the wintery, desolate landscape that surrounds the boarding school, and makes a good addition to the general sense of unease the film brings about. The strong performances of the main cast also add to the film’s appeal; Shipka in particular delivers an impressive performance despite the fact that she doesn’t have nearly as much dialogue as may be expected in a film with a run time of about an hour and thirty-five minutes.
Unfortunately, the film is slightly let down through its confusing plot. It is clear to see it was well thought out and involves a very clever plot twist; however it takes about half of the film for the audience to realise one of the most crucial elements of the storyline. The lack of dialogue means that the audience is often left with many questions and no answers, which is usually fine if said questions are resolved at the end of the film, but in this case some of them remain after the credits start rolling. Of course, some people might love this element of February; films are always subjective after all and the element of confusion is clearly intentional. However, for those who like to find out all the answers and know all parts of a story, this might be a downside of the film.
Overall, despite not being exactly what one might expect from a horror film, the continuous suspense, reliance on a creepy atmosphere, and a great plot twist (you’ll have to see if you can figure it out yourself!) make February well worth a watch. If you’re looking for a well-acted, beautifully filmed, non-stereotypical horror film that requires a bit of thought, this is one for you!
Photo credit for featured photo: http://www.joblo.com/horror-movies/news/february-becomes-the-blackcoats-daughter-for-july-release-166