Stranded at their Catholic prep school over winter break, two young girls (Kiernan Shipka and Lucy Boynton) are haunted by devilish forces. Meanwhile, a mysterious hospital escapee (Emma Roberts) charts a course towards the school and is given a ride by a grieving middle-aged couple, in this stylish and brooding slow burn…..
The best horrors are those that take the viewer by surprise.
February or The Blackcoat’s Daughter came to my attention over the last few months of 2018, firstly from a fellow horror fanatic who could not stop talking about it, to the usual whispers over Social Media from many that believed it was 2016’s best horror.
The film itself comes with a complicated history. Not only does it come under two different titles and many different posters, but for many it was not released until late February of 2017 (fitting) where it enjoyed a limited cinema run, but it also hit the VOD market where it’s won loads of positive word of mouth.
But for us fans in the UK it had somehow snuck onto Netflix like a silent assassin to a bewildering not much fanfare or advertisement.
I was told only that this film which I have been waiting for an age to see, had been on that streaming site for months from a fellow fan and by looking and scrolling, I saw that it was squeezed in the horror section between a Residential Evil sequel and Dracula 2000, a moment after the film had finished I realised how lost it now seems in that placing.
Whatever title you want to call it and for this review I am going for February, this is such an accomplished directing debut by Osgood Perkins – the son of the late great horror icon Anthony Perkins, that you can only begin to get excited that this is the start of some career for the young man.
Evoking memories of those old Hammer horrors, this is a film in which every scene drips of menace and gloom, that you’ll feel so dirty afterwards that that it’ll make you want to take a bath once the final credits roll. Its grim, dark, unsettling and wonderfully brilliant! Believe those whispers, February excels in every single department!
Not that it will be for everyone’s taste though. This is not a slash fest or a gore porn horror, even though to its credit it does build to an incredible blood soaked finale, this slowly feeds the horror to come. Slow burn? Yes! But because you know something is coming and you don’t know what, you just can’t take your eyes off it all. There will be those brought up on cheap thrills that will bemoan the lack of activity, but for the most experienced horror fans, this will make your realise why you love the horror genre so much!
Yes guys its that good!
Like a great book, the film carries each chapter to show the menace unfold. The setting of snow falling outside while a boarding school is set to close for a mid break is a perfect setting for an old fashioned tale.
For Katherine (Kiernan Shipka) whose dreams are so frightful that she wakes with terror, is stuck as her parents have failed to collect her. Another girl whose parents have failed to show is Rose (Lucy Boynton) who purposely told her family the wrong day so she could not only hide the fact that she may be pregnant but also spend more time with her boyfriend Rick (Peter J. Gray).
Away from the school we have a third girl, Joan played by a slowly becoming horror icon Emma Roberts. Like a Red Riding Hood whose coat stands out in the midst of the snow, this is a girl with a troubled past who accepts a lift from two strangers (James Remar and Lauren Holly) who themselves are mourning the loss of their daughter. Its quite clear that these stories will come together in a devastating fashion, but the beauty of the film is how we get there.
I really can’t go into anymore. This is a horror that you need to watch without the knowledge of what is going to happen. I have seen this film twice now over the last week and even on second viewing, I noticed things that only enhanced the pleasure of this little beauty. It really is a remarkable piece of film making.
From the stunning imagery that just strikes the film with the creepiness it richly deserves, added with a music score from Osgood’s brother Elvis (full credit to you Mr Perkins for having two talented siblings), February is more about loss and grief than what is happening in that basement and while it takes a while to get to where the film is heading, once we reach the finale, its not only unsettling, but the memory will linger for many of you long after the credits have rolled.
It was Keyser Soze who famously said “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist!” after watching February you want to believe he doesn’t.
A near masterpiece!