I was very curious and hopeful about this movie, but ultimately, “February” turned out to be only mediocre. Which is a shame, given that there’s definitely a lot of potential in the overall story, some cool ideas, a couple of great performances, and some really creepy scenes. But for a very long time, it panders along aimlessly and at too sluggish a pace, and it’s further hindered by a couple of unnecessar(il)y mysterious scenes that never really got explained, and thus left me rather confused, if not frustrated.
What I liked is the idea of a rather weird mix between a possession-horror-movie and a mystery-film. At least when you take it at face value, since you might as well argue that the possession and/or the demon/devil isn’t actually real, but that it’s all imagination, and the product of a psychosis. That the movie doesn’t offer a definitive answer to that question was another one of its strengths. Also, even though possession and/or religious horror isn’t really my thing (I’m one of those who think that “The Exorzist” is the most overrated horror movie of all time), there were a couple of scenes that proved to be quite effective in that regard. Maybe because Oz Perkins never overdoes it, and uses those scenes sparingly. There’s also a really cool idea at the end that, at least the way I interpreted it, offers a nice answer to the question of a certain character’s motivation. As mentioned, the acting ranges from good to great, with Kiernan Shipka the standout-performance for me (even though Emma Roberts was very good too). Perkins also understands how to create tension, and manages to successfully shift between suspense and blood/gore. My favorite thing about the movie, however, is the way a certain revelation is treated. There’s never a scene where they let the characters spell it out for you. Perkins only offers you (well-portioned) clues, and trusts his viewers to figure it out for themselves along the way. I really wish more directors would have similar faith in their audience.
“February”‘s biggest problem is that it has some considerable lengths. There are a couple of really great scenes, but in between those, the movie moves at a very sluggish pace, and thus loses much if not all of its tension. I also think that a couple of scenes would have worked better if the viewer would have had the necessary information to know what is really going on in advance. I also was a little frustrated that the very first scene that sets up the mystery of her missing parents is never really explained. Sometimes, the movie seems to jump rather aimlessly between its different characters and locations. And personally, I wasn’t that ecstatic about the way they realized the devil. The movie, which already felt stretched out to me, then culminates into an extremely slow credits crawl that gave me the impression that they let them roll so slowly in order to get above the 90 minutes mark. Ultimately, despite its shortcomings, it’s an intriguing debut feature – but it’s not quite good enough to mark Oz Perkins as a new rising star on the horror movie horizon.