TIFF 2015 Review: February


Emma Roberts, keeping her mouth shut about the macabre in “February”

It’s almost impossible to go into a theatre and not know what to expect anymore. Yes, I’ve touched on this before with TIFF movies, but it’s still one of the big draws of the festival for me: walking into a darkened theatre based solely off a brief synopsis, one film still, and the flickering hope that the movie you picked might just be a good one. And February is a helluva good one.

I would be doing a disservice to the movie if I wrote a complete review with details about its plot, so I’ll only provide the same information I had going in from the synopsis below (from the TIFF website):

Two young students at a prestigious prep school for girls are assailed by an evil, invisible power when they are stranded at the school over winter break. Starring Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men), Emma Roberts (American Horror Story) and Lucy Boynton.

Yes, I know there is more information about the film than that on the TIFF website, but I only read the longer version after seeing the movie, so the above quote is what stuck with me (and induced me to buy tickets). Upon reflection, it’s a bit misleading about the movie, but that’s part of the charm. February is the type of movie where you aren’t quite sure what’s going to happen next, but when it does happen it all makes sense.

I’ve been saving a quote from Stephen King’s Danse Macabre for years now that I’ve wanted to use on this blog. Now I’m finally going to use it. While it is specifically about horror movies, I think it applies equally to all films (and why some of us are obsessed with going to the theatres to see more and more):

“The true horror film aficionado is more like a prospector with his panning equipment or his wash wheel, spending long periods going patiently through common dirt, looking for the bright blink of gold dust or possibly even a small nugget or two. Such a working miner is not looking for a big strike, which may come tomorrow or the day after or never; he has put those illusions behind him. He’s only looking for a livin’ wage, something to keep him going awhile longer.” [Danse Macabre, page 222]

February is the type of film that keeps me watching. It’s such a pleasure to find a hidden gem in the deluge of mediocre movies that flood the multiplex. Even moreso to find a good horror movie, where the ratio is about 10 shlocky films to a single good one.

A few details are important – this is a slow-burn horror film. It takes place in an unsettling atmosphere, where all the characters speak with long pauses and sometimes have offbeat responses. The incredible score by Elvis Perkins (the director Osgood Perkins’ brother) creates an unbearable mood of evil that infiltrates every scene (including moments that seem sinister, but on reflection weren’t at all). This film and It Follows are showing the amazing (and sadly all too under-appreciated) work done by an ominous soundtrack. There’s not a lot of gore, and a lot of the “scary” moments are left to the imagination in darkly lit scenes. And the film actually has a pretty solid theme underpinning all the ghoulish stuff about loneliness, loss, and alienation.

Last year, horror aficionados were praising The Babadook and It Follows. In 2015 (or 2016…or the year this comes out), fans will be talking about February with the same reverence. At the very least, I will be.

Grade: A

Sidenote: This is Osgood Perkins’ first feature. It’s such a self-assured debut that I’m not entirely certain that can be true. Unless he made a Faustian bargain to make it….

One Response to TIFF 2015 Review: February

  1. Julia Turnbull says:

    Is it as good as Drag Me to Hell???

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