starring Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Boynton, James Remar
written and directed by Oz Perkins
by Walter Chaw Osgood Perkins's hyphenate debut February is haunted. It plays like a boarding-school version of Rob Zombie's extraordinary Lords of Salem, coloured by the same sadness and sense of inevitability and doom. Like it, February features a female protagonist cast adrift in a mostly-empty building, waiting for something to take her away--to Heaven or to Hell, it's not clear. Not clear, either, if there's much of a difference at the end of the journey. Here it's Kat ("Mad Men"'s Kiernan Shipka), who has a terrible dream one night that her parents aren't going to arrive to take her home from school over the Christmas break and then wakes to find it come true. She's marooned there with two guardians and a Heather, the beautiful Rose (Lucy Boynton), who's engineered her own abandonment, the better to spend an extra week with a boy who may have knocked her up. February is obviously about young female sexuality, locating its girl heroes right there, teetering on the cusp of still calling out to their mothers when they're hurt. And it's about grief. Grief for the passing of innocence to experience, literalized in the loss of parents and the desire for their surrogates. It wonders what would happen if Rosemary's baby were a girl, and met her real father for the first time as a young woman going through puberty. It's a lovely metaphor for the sensual horror of that transformation, for the little deaths that separate children from their parents, literally or figuratively.