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Monday, October 15, 2012

247°F -- DVD review by porfle

247°F is supposedly the temperature at which the human body turns into crepe paper or your head explodes or whatever.  But in film terms, 247°F (2011) is the point where a "predicament" thriller about people trapped in a sauna can become nap-inducingly dull.

The story is "based on true events", we're told, which is hardly a recommendation these days.  The titles sequence is effectively tragic--Jenna (Scout Taylor-Compton, HALLOWEEN) and husband Jamie are in a car crash directly after their wedding reception and Jamie is killed, while the bride is trapped with him in the smoking wreck for hours. 

Three years later she's still an emotional wreck, so her friend Renee (Christina Ulloa, "Charmed") invites her to a lakeside cabin for the weekend along with Renee's party animal boyfriend Michael (Michael Copon, "One Tree Hill") and his single buddy Ian (Travis Van Winkle, TRANSFORMERS).  Naturally, Jenna will be reticent to join in any of the fun, and it will fall upon the gentlemanly Ian to try and coax her out of her shell.

Michael, on the other hand, only wants to drink, get stoned, and have sex, so we've seen his character, his character's relationship with the Renee character, and their basic situations and dialogue a million times before.  In fact, up to the point where that sauna door closes for the last time you could stick just about anything you wanted after this by-the-numbers set-up, including a mad slasher, a supernatural menace, or a school of flesh-eating mutant catfish.

The cabin belongs to Michael's uncle Wade, who is played by "X-Men"'s Sabertooth, Tyler Mane, and co-directors Levan Bakhia and Beqa Jguburia enjoy making us wonder whether hulking yahoo Wade is a nice guy or a secret psycho who likes to trap people in his basement sauna and watch 'em bake.  Either way, after we're teased a few times by the inevitable prospect, that predatory sauna finally traps its prey and our protagonists start to simmer. 

Renee immediately starts to lose whatever mind she had to begin with, freaking out and practically climbing the walls as Christina Ulloa is asked to perform well beyond her acting range while spouting some of the worst dialogue a film of this type can offer.  Five minutes into their ordeal and Renee's already berating eternal widow Jenna for not having a "life." 

Considering the relatively short time actually spent in the sauna, the usual build-up to panic and madness you'd find in films such as OPEN WATER and FROZEN is accelerated to such an extent that these people come off as wildly unstable and prone to bursts of irrationality at the drop of a hat.  (What's more, we never even really get a sense of how hot it's supposed to be in there.)

Even so, Jenna and Renee find time to ruminate about their past friendship and how circumstances have changed them over the years, which means nothing to us because we don't really care about either of them anyway.  Such empathy, along with a certain element of realism, is what helps make other predicament thrillers effective. 

Here, unfortunately, the people and situations are so artificial and their actions so unrealistic that it becomes tiresome waiting for whatever happens to them to finally happen.  There's even a scene in which Jenna and her trapped companions are screaming through a wall at a dog named Beau and begging him to help them. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras consist of a  commentary by producer-director Levan Bakhia and some brief deleted scenes.

When done effectively, films such as 247°F can transport us into a situation of almost unbearable suspense and make us suffer right along with the people onscreen.  In this case, however, we suffer all right--but less from suspense, and more from sheer boredom.

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