“What is sacrifice? What does it mean to make a real difference?”
What do Al Gore and horror films have in common? To begin with both have been making money trying to scare the crap out of you. The second is that the plot of The Thaw sounds like it could have been penned by Captain Al himself. Lionsgate brings back their popular Ghost House Underground series from last October. The series title likely borrows a bit from the old Grind House Theater that Quentin Tarantino brought back to fashion in the last couple of years. I assume it is intended to denote a horror film that skirts the art house scene. So, how does The Thaw fit into that mold?
Dr. David Kruipen (Kilmer) is an ecological scientist and a firm believer that man-made global warming has reached a point where we are assured extinction if we don’t act right now. He’s set up an Arctic research station to invent data … I’m sorry. Did I say that? I mean collect data that will prove to the world that the threat of catastrophic destruction is here. When he uncovers the remains of a woolly mammoth, he gets more than he bargained for. The beast was infected with a parasite. And now those creatures are hatching once again. To compound his problem, three of his students are expected to arrive to assist him in his propaganda … I’m sorry, research. His daughter is going to be in that group. He tries to stop his daughter from arriving, but you and I have seen far too many horror movies to believe she isn’t coming. They’ve been somewhat estranged since he couldn’t tear himself away from his … eh … project to attend her mother’s funeral. When the kids arrive they find the place deserted … except for those bugs. Once they’re infected, they face a moral dilemma. Do they allow themselves to be rescued and risk exposing the world to the bugs, or do they sacrifice themselves to save the world. Of course, some of them think that infecting the world with the bugs on purpose will alert humanity to the dangers of what might be released by global warming. What’s a few hundred or thousand deaths in the big picture? As one character remarks. “They’ll make more”. Finally we discover that the good doctor might have been planning just such an event all along.
It’s hard to talk about this film without the obvious and very much in your face global warming sermons the characters too often deliver. Whatever side of the issue you might fall on, is it necessary to waste good horror movie time on this nonsense? Is that where we want to be preached at? I think not. The filmmakers and the cast alike put aside making an effective horror film to promote a political agenda.
Val Kilmer pretty much phones this one in. I actually like the actor, but he is so wooden here that it’s hard to believe the character has so much passion he’s willing to drop a biological bomb on the world just to wake them up. The rest of the cast is equally lethargic. The bug f/x are average but are accompanied by the cheesiest sound effects I’ve heard.
Otherwise, this film plays out like a long X-Files episode. There’s even a cameo featuring everyone’s favorite Cigarette Smoking Man, William B. Davis. In fact, The X-Files already did just this episode, where a parasite was released from an Arctic research station, and Mulder and Scully were placed in just this same position. The difference was they did it without the sermon. Check that episode out and forget this piece of garbage. You’ll thank me later.
The Thaw is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/Mpeg-4 codec. There isn’t much color here, but that can hardly be considered a flaw considering the Arctic location. Lighting is also somewhat odd and surreal. Again it’s likely the filmmaker’s choice. Detail is higher than previous Ghosthouse titles. The picture was sharp and clean with better than average black levels.
The DTS-HD Master Audio track is pretty much useless. It’s a claustrophobic film, so there appropriately isn’t much more than dialog here. Musical cues are sparse. The clicking sound of the bugs is actually quite annoying and takes me out of the film.
Making Of Feature: (13:26) SD More propaganda. Much of the feature takes place in a small box with credits and such extending into the rest of the frame. It’s a weak feature and offers nothing of any value.
Just shut up and shoot is what I’d like to say to these kinds of filmmakers. It’s very annoying to hear characters act very elite, chanting political speeches as if they were reciting gospel. What was the film’s carbon footprint, I wonder. We get it. “There’s way too many people using way too much stuff.”