Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: A woman, working on an isolated strip of road, believes she is being stalked by a killer that appears once every four years.
Review: When I first reviewed this film I wasn't sure if I'd still be writing reviews come the following leap year. Sure enough, here we are, and here I am to fix that original review. Now, the first thing to add, that I failed to mention before, is that this is a part in the "4 Horror Tales," a collection of four films that also includes: "Dark Forest of Death," "Roommates," and "Forbidden Floor." This collection, as a whole, is not very good, but "February 29" is, without a doubt, the best of the bunch. Sure, it's still a heavily flawed film, but it's a unique experience, and there was a concerted effort to at least try and create an interesting movie. On top of that, this film has a great sense of atmosphere and an intriguing mystery to keep you engaged. The story might not have come together as intended, but it's one of the most original K-horror films out there.
Well...like a character mentions, it's better blood than shit.
The story can be a bit incoherent toward the end, but, in essence, the filmmakers thought they were toying with the audience's sense of perception. They do not accomplish this. We are meant to see the perspective of the main girl, Ji-yeon, a lonely tollbooth operator, who believes a killer only appears on leap years. Supposedly, a bus full of criminals were blown up one February 29th yet one of the prisoners, a female serial killer, apparently survived and continues her killing spree once every four years. They imply that the killer is a ghost too which is what starts to make the plot nonsensical. Furthermore, there is the obvious conclusion that Ji-yeon is crazy and is, in fact, the killer herself. You are meant to decide whether Ji-yeon's depiction of the events are accurate or whether the police are telling the truth; after all, Ji-yeon is being blamed for the murders one way or another. I do enjoy that dynamic between the police and Ji-yeon's accounts of the events, but the execution is not there. What I mostly love is that originality to the plot. A haunted road is nothing new, but the inclusion of leap year and the tollbooth setup allows for ideas we've never seen before. If there were more emphasis on making sense, I think this could have been an Asian horror legend. Instead, this is probably a love it or hate it experience.
I like the cracked lips. Sexy. It was actually a nice little detail to include.
From a technical standpoint, the movie is put together excellently. The cinematography is good and the effective use of lighting is used as a plot point. The way the killer is introduced and the accompanying music establishes this creepy atmosphere that I must applaud. When you couple this with Ji-yeon's institutionalization, you are thoroughly engrossed in the direction the story is going. The actors try to give their characters personality with tiny nuances that do help. Honestly, there is just a lot to appreciate in the film, but it is boggled down by the massive flaws.
A lingering sweat / Lips wrapped around a bottle / Strangely erotic?
-an impromptu (and mostly unintentional) haiku by yours truly
Obviously the main, and glaring, flaw of the film is the confusing design of the story. In an attempt to keep things vague and have you guessing by film's end, the makers lost focus along the way. I like to believe Ji-yeon was telling the truth, to an extent, but you can look at the plot however you wish. The cops are bumbling idiots in the film, but there are reasonable explanations for most events. Yet we, as the audience, are never given efficient context that the movie believes it has provided. For example, we are never given clarity as to what parts of Ji-yeon's story were confirmed true. I just don't think the approach was handled properly especially when we get that retarded final zinger. I'm dead serious, I can only think of...like...two K-horror movies that don't have a pointless final zinger. STOP IT! Or at least start making sense. Another ball they dropped was in regard to the ghost/killer. She isn't scary flat out; Ji-yeon at the mental institute realistically looks scarier.
Walk it off, sweetheart!
In spite of the tremendous flaws, there is just something about this movie I love so much. The originality and creativity to the story was refreshing, and the handling of the atmosphere and intrigue were spot on. I absolutely love the combination of leap year, a tollbooth, and the duality of the storytelling. While the momentum is clearly lost along the way, and the ending didn't help out either, I can overlook these shortcomings. I understand that this film will not appease everyone especially when you consider that the ghost/killer is no Kayako or Natre to at least keep you on edge. I still recommend viewers to seek this one out, but expect the film to be more thriller than outright horror.
Notable Moment: When the killer appears for the first time after the blackout. This truly does set the tone for the rest of the film even if the story can't maintain that atmosphere.
Final Rating: 6/10