Kat (Kiernan Shipka) stayed at a Catholic girls' boarding school in Canada, but come February, when she expected to be playing piano and singing in the annual concert, she had a terrible premonition that her parents had died in a car crash on the way up to see her on her big day. When they did not arrive, she saw the headmaster, Father Brian (Greg Ellwand), who found her remote demeanour somewhat perplexing, especially when she appeared to be smiling at some private joke. Meanwhile Rose (Lucy Boynton), another pupil, had her own reasons to dread the consequences of her life when she believed she had fallen pregnant by her boyfriend - but there would be other reasons.
Oz Perkins was one of those actors who found what they really wanted to do was direct, and so it was after three decades of performing he managed to get his script for a horror movie made, and February was the result. Also known as The Blackcoat's Daughter, it could have been easily mistaken for part of the so-called "slow cinema" movement of the twenty-first century, those arty films that took their time to the point of almost being static, but Perkins was not about to allow that sensation to follow on to the rest of the movie after a gradual build-up. The patient viewer would find that patience rewarded, assuming you were keeping up with the twists he included throughout.
One character was not who she seemed, was all you needed to know, and if you were able to identify who she actually was and where she slotted into the narrative's timeline you would likely be more satisfied than those who watched this and considered it a school drama that turned into a slasher flick in its latter stages. If you were a horror fan and somebody told you what you were about to watch was a cross between The Exorcist and Happy Birthday to Me, then it's uncertain whether February would be the movie you would be anticipating, as there was more than a whiff of the arthouse here, which could see it falling between two stools of potential audience appreciation.
If you liked arty horror, from The Reflecting Skin to The Eyes of My Mother and beyond, then you were going to get along with this it was safe to say, yet as the chiller market was regarded as so mainstream now when there were big bucks to be made from even a modest hit (you didn't need so much as big stars, simply a solid premise, and a massive budget was almost a drawback), then the average follower of the genre was supposed to be someone who shied away from pretension and was content to jump whenever the movie said "boo!", no more and no less. While it was difficult to discern what, if any, commentary Perkins was including with his icy, rather blank suspense item, there was obvious quality in the material and the dedicated manner in which it was presented that screamed cult film from the off.
And so it was, with Perkins' second film as director, he was snapped up by Netflix who were evidently impressed by his first feature and guessed it had a ready made audience for them, though this appeared to backfire when the mainstream who consisted of the majority of the subscribers rejected it. It could be that the most welcoming audience for this sort of thing was a small scattering of dedicated cineastes with a taste for the outré showing up for a midnight showing at a fashionable picture house, so bear that in mind if you wanted to give February a go. Though it had a glacial surface, below there were provocations such as the stock bad girl character who realises she's nowhere near as bad as the real deal, or the anti-authority stance taken as a consequence of mental illness, plus the genuine threat of the supernatural as a nineteen-seventies TV movie concept of Satan may be stalking the halls seeking souls to corrupt. It was implausible, but no more than the last nightmare you had. Excellent, creepy score by Elvis Perkins (brother of the director).