There are many kinds of horror films. Today’s trend appears to go the route of graphic blood and guts. It’s what we call torture Porn. You know the kind I’m talking about. The Saw and Hostel franchises best illustrate that kind of sub genre. The more classic horror films often feature a monster or creature of some kind. The best of these portray the monster not as evil, but terribly misused or misunderstood. These films have been with us since James Whale and Boris Karloff delivered Frankenstein to our collective consciousness. Then there’s the good vs. evil fight that was best brought out in The Exorcist. But perhaps the most frightening films of all come from none of these extremes of violence or supernatural forces. The most frightening circumstances come from those things which are most realistic. The kind of situations and events that we know could actually happen to us. Open Water was a very effective film in that respect. There’s an almost instinctual fear of sharks, helped along no doubt by a certain Mr. Spielberg. Most of us can relate to being in the ocean with a killing machine that’s as real as the very air we breathe. Enter the misleadingly titled 247°F.
The film starts pretty much according to the standard formula. Four young adults are heading to an isolated cabin on a lake for a before-season getaway. There’s the standard drug and alcohol breakout and the expected pairing off for a romp in the bed. There’s the mysterious caretaker, and before long our pre-programmed minds are expecting someone or something to deliver the traditional slice-and-dice routine. But that’s where 247°F deviates from the norm.
The cabin has a built-in sauna that is just too tempting for them. When three of them become trapped inside of the sauna the ticking clock begins. The temperature continues to rise with no way out and no way to turn off the heat. The film leads us to believe there’s a countdown, of sorts, hence the title. But that particular temperature really never plays into the plot at all. Still, the temperature is rising, and they are running out of time.
When you have a film like this that doesn’t really have a lot of visual horror, it’s up to the actors to deliver the panic and terror in order to be effective at all. This film is a bit of a mixed bag. Travis Van Winkle is the odd guy in the sauna. He also delivers the least credible performance. He appears more interested in showing off his abs than actually selling us on the fear. It’s almost as if he’s afraid to allow his character to go there, and the performance suffers greatly. Fortunately the two female leads to a better job of selling the claustrophobia and panic. Scout Taylor-Compton is a veteran at this sort of thing, and her experience shows. She was the new Laurie Strode in Rod Zombie’s Halloween remakes, and she continues to impress here. Equally as effective was Christina Ulloa as Renee. Her character has the more complete back story. She lost her fiancée in a car crash and hasn’t yet come out of her grief. She also gets to be the heroine here, and the part is absolutely the juiciest. She doesn’t let us down.
In the end however, the film’s claustrophobic setting does wear a bit. The pacing doesn’t take us anywhere, and directors Levan Bakhia and Beqa Jguburia don’t know how to pace the action. They depend entirely too much on the performances and only develop the one character. The ending falls entirely flat and is quite a disappointment. The end result comes across as much to do about nothing.
The film includes deleted scenes and a commentary track. It’s an OK rental, but I’m not sure you’re going to be taking return trips to this sauna. “It’s just temporary relief.“