Directed by Levan Bakhia and Beqa Jguburia
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
At the beginning of Anchor Bay’s new thriller 247°F, the possessory credit pops up, reading “A Film By Levan Bakhia and Beqa Jguburia”. However, by the time the opening sequence ends, the director’s credit appears, reading “Directed by Levan Bakhia”. Curious, as the two credits typically align in most movies. What a mystery.
Sadly, said mystery is far more interesting than the plot of the film that follows.
Three years after surviving the car wreck which claimed her fiancé’s life, twentysomething Jenna (Taylor-Compton) is whisked away by best friend Renee (Ulloa) to spend a weekend away at a lakeside cabin with Renee’s boyfriend Michael (Copon), and Michael’s best friend Ian (Van Winkle), whose uncle Wade (Mane) owns the cabin in question (got all that?). Even years later, Jenna’s a well-medicated emotional wreck, which is much the reason why Renee is attempting to inject some fun into her friend’s life (and, just maybe, set her up with the likable Ian).
Soon after Wade presents the group with moonshine shots, everyone settles in for dinner. After a bit of character building and exposition, Wade parts ways with our quartet, leaving them to decide between attending a lakeside party or hanging out in Wade’s homemade sauna. Of course, they choose the sauna.
Given that the hotheaded Michael is in tow, the temperatures rise quickly within the sauna, as he instigates a bit of bickering which eventually causes him to storm away, leaving his friends behind. Before long, the trio decides to go after him, only to discover that they have been locked into the sauna with no way out. At first they believe that Michael is merely pulling a prank, but as time wears on and the rising heat reaches dangerous levels, the group realizes that they may be at the mercy of someone else’s diabolical will. And with no help coming, the group must make their peace with the possibility that they will soon perish in the most horrible of ways.
Okay, seriously, I tried my best to make all of that sound interesting. Didn’t have much luck, did I? Previous three paragraphs nearly put you to sleep? Now imagine having to sit through all ninety minutes of this film. While it may not be a punishment on par with poor Jenna’s predicament, it’s a tepid trod nevertheless.
While the setup is interesting, and is certainly capable of great drama, little is done to flesh out the characters, as there are practically no arcs for any of the protagonists. In addition, for such a terrible position for a set of people to be in, this thriller sadly never manages to reach its boiling point. We the audience understand how tense the situation must be, we just never feel it.
The actors all do a fine job, which is quite commendable considering the overcooked dialogue they occasionally have to contend with. Taylor-Compton creates a believably damaged and sympathetic heroine, Van Winkle plays a nice guy for once (as opposed to the douchebaggy roles that seem to be the young actor’s bread and butter), and Mane is an immediately likable presence onscreen, which is surprising considering how effectively menacing he was in the Rob Zombie Halloweens (yes, I just paid that franchise a compliment – chill). In addition, Ulloa and Copon may be playing the most annoying couple ever, but they do find a way to make each of their characters human (if rarely sympathetic).
The film is well-lensed throughout, and there is some especially beautiful exterior photography at the film’s beginning. Unfortunately, while the film does have some intense sequences, it ultimately fails as a thriller. Directors Bakhia and Jguburia are unable to keep the film’s tension taut for more than a brief stretches, by frequently padding their central struggle with unnecessary cutaways to Wade’s activities and Michael’s whereabouts. In addition, there is a head-slappingly bad set of flashbacks concerning Michael’s earlier activities that are overly-long and quite useless. A shame, as the main conflict should’ve been consistently harrowing.
And while the initial mystery regarding the situation is interesting (exactly who did this to our heroes and why?), the payoff is clumsily executed. And it seems as though the filmmakers wanted to ape the Marilyn Burns’ dinner table scene from Texas Chain Saw for one character’s climactic freakout, but 247’s equivalent comes off as unintentionally hilarious during this crucial moment.
Anchor Bay’s release of 247°F is decent enough. The picture is sharp, with strong colors, while the audio is perfectly adequate. As far as bonus features, we get an audio commentary with Bakhia, which is a pleasant enough listen for those who care to check it out. There are also a trio of deleted scenes that include some much-missed character beats. These really should’ve stayed in the film.
Ultimately, I can’t bring myself to hate the film. It’s far from the worst thing I’ve seen this year, and it does feature some decent performances and photography. But for a horror-lite thriller, the thrills are practically non-existent, rendering this flick ultimately pointless. Stay out of this sauna, folks.
2 out of 5
2 out of 5