For a filmmaker, taking on a horror film with the purpose of making it feel different than from what that genre typically, often lazily, trudges out for public consumption is an admirable thought. Clearly, that was what Oz Perkins, son of horror legend Anthony Perkins (Psycho), had in mind when he came up with the idea for February. To slap it with a label of the type of horror film it is would affect the impact of the twist ending. The success of the landing of the twist ending will either make or break this movie for most viewers.
At an all-girl boarding school, winter break is approaching and the students are excitedly anticipating the arrival of their parents which means they won’t be in school for a while. When the last day comes, there are two students left stranded. Kat’s (Kiernan Shipka, Mad Men) parents mysteriously didn’t make their way to the school and Kat is worried about them. Rose potentially has a major personal problem on her hands and might not have told her parents the correct day to pick her up. At the same time, a seemingly troubled girl, Joan (Emma Roberts) is making her way alone across the state when a good samaritan offers to take her where she wants to go. Despite his best efforts to make conversation and be nice, her troubles have clearly consumed her and she continues to be mysterious and quiet. What is unknown by all involved is how they are linked, and that they are linked by an unseen force of true evil.
February moves at a deliberately slow pace, which is different from most contemporary horror films. That is a welcome change and the deliberate pace moves along brilliantly to create good moments of tension without a single cheap jump scare and a noticeably creepy lack of an ever-present score. The performances presented here are all crafted perfectly and even though there’s a lack of development to the characters as complete people, you’re given all of the information you need.
For a horror debut, there a few missteps, mostly in how the obligatory twist ending is handled but they aren’t too disastrous to completely derail the film. The twist ending, once presented, kind of takes away from the tension created during the first half of the film because you’re never sure who is on the level. Twists often have that effect but they tend to elevate the film and this one sort of deflated it.
Oz Perkins clearly has a future in this business and his horror pedigree can’t be denied. Overall, February is a fantastic debut, despite the missteps in how the twist ending is presented. Emma Roberts has solidified herself as a mainstay in horror today with this film and her appearances in Scream 4, American Horror Story and new TV Show, Scream Queens. It’s a solid entry into the horror genre if you want something that delivers are more slow and deliberate experience that is still able to provide a gut punch of ending.