So, TIFF is on! The first film I'll talk about is Oz Perkins' debut February.
February, a grim tale about two teens stranded at their all-girls school over Christmas break, was a unique experience for me, as it was the first time I had read the screenplay before seeing the movie. It was one of a number of scripts (mostly from The Black List) that I read last winter as part of a writing club. While I really liked the prose, I tuned out of the script toward the end, mostly because of an event that happened on Page 86. However, moving on from that, my curiosity got the better of me when I discovered that the movie had not only been made, but was playing this year's TIFF.
Despite my initial misgivings, I think February turned out all right. I liked the tone and the school location they found perfectly represented the one in the script. I also felt that with crux of the film was easier to follow when expressed visually, although one still has to accept one fairly large leap in the narrative toward the end.
The real strength of the piece is the three leads (Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka and Lucy Boynton) who all give very subtle and grounded performances. These young actresses are really coming into their own, effortlessly shedding off the pre-conceived notions of their past (with Roberts' lineage and Shipka's previous seven-year stint as Sally Draper on TV's Mad Men.)
|Emma Roberts as Joan in February.|
I also really liked February's score. It had a old-school quality to it that reminded me of Gene Moore's work on Carnival of Souls. It recalled the era of filmmaking that I believe Perkins' was aiming to emulate here. Even if the core subject matter is familiar territory, there is a lot of originality in here. It is rare to come across a horror film – it is more accurately a drama with horror elements – where you really don't know where it is going to go.
I think the most fascinating thing about February is how much Perkins' father (Anthony Perkins of Psycho fame) influenced, consciously or unconsciously, this film. Aside from its classical cinematic leanings, there was also tons of knife imagery and violence, although the three shower scenes in the screenplay were cut down to one for the film. Even he must have felt that was gratuitous.
|Oz Perkins, Lucy Boynton, Kiernan Shipka & Lauren Holly.|
February was a cool little genre effort that was simple, understated and dealt with the subject of loss in interesting ways. Perkins also has another script that he wrote at this year's TIFF called The Girl In The Photographs, so we'll see how they stack up together.
*Q&A photo courtesy Tim Reis.