February full movie review - A Great Atmospheric Slow Burn that's not for everyone
DISCLAIMER: This film requires a patient viewer who likes slow burns and atmospheric dread rather than jump scares or thriller action.
Many of the user reviews on here trash the movie for being too slow or too boring, but this movie was never meant to appeal to everyone. If you thought this was boring or too slow, everyone has different taste and that's fine.
First off, the biggest strength of this movie is the icy dread and unease that this movie produces from the opening scene right up to the tragic final shot. This tense atmosphere never relents, even during mundane scenes, and left that dread in the pit of my stomach for the entirety of the film. Everything feels like there's something not quite right with it.
The cinematography and lighting are dark and brooding, with every room dimly lit and every setting having a sinister feel. This dreary feel to all the scenes almost never lets up and keeps the dread at a maximum.
The sound design is quite good, using prolonged silence to make scenes feel uneasy and eerie sound effects and music to heighten tension and fear. This is one of the loudest quiet movies I've ever seen, and the subtle arctic winds blowing and faint whispers and static drone are masterfully used.
The setting and environment add another layer to the dread of the film. Set in remote upstate New York in the dead of winter, the deep snow is suffocating and chilling. You can really feel the isolation of the school where Kat and Rose are staying, and the school itself is creepy in its own right, with dark and foreboding hallways and a glum exterior.
The story is not spoon-fed to viewers and is a bit of a puzzle that reveals itself one brief detail at a time, and it can be confusing on the first viewing of it. It keeps you guessing as to what's happening, and has some twists that make you rethink what you saw. The plot is told in an odd fashion, with each main character having their own "arc" in a sense and lots of brief flashbacks by Joan and Kat. The ending is a good payoff for all the dread and tension built up, though a bit rushed. The final shot is beautiful and haunting, and has stuck with me ever since.
Kiernan Shipka is very creepy and unsettling as Kat, and gives the best performance in the film. Even those who did not like this movie gave Shipka props for a wonderful job done. Emma Roberts steps into a different role than she usually does, and does an excellent job as Joan. Her body language said more than the few lines she has. The rest of the cast also turns in solid performances, the acting in this is a great strength next to its atmosphere.
This is an excellent but polarizing slow burn non-traditional possession horror film, and is impressive for Osgood Perkins' directorial debut.