247 °F (2011) – Movie Review

247 °F, directed by Levan Bakhira and Beqa Jguburia, is one of those movies that had the potential to be an incredibly stupid B-movie. After learning the premise of the film, a suspense thriller about three people getting trapped in a sauna, I anticipated the movie to be complete dreck. Fortunately, the film turned out to be actually decent, with some nice suspense and attempts at characterization.

The first twenty minutes are dedicated to boring expository scenes necessary to establish what needs to be established: Jenna (played by Scout Taylor-Compton) survives a car accident that killed her boyfriend. Three years later she is still traumatized, depressive and taking pills. To help push her out of her bubble a friend Renee (Christina Ulloa) insists that she stay with her and her boyfriend, Michael (Michael Copon) and his friend Ian (Travis Van Winkle) who takes an interest in Jenna, in a cabin for a weekend getaway. The cabin is owned by Ian’s cool uncle Wade (Tyler Mane) who smokes pot and lives a drive away. As Renee’s and Michael’s relationship starts turning sour due to Michael getting more and more wasted, Ian tries to flirt and converse with the reluctant Jenna. They drink, smoke weed, etc. and talk about going to a party that’s nearby. These scenes, while kind of dull, are actually alright compared to similar films as the writing and acting is better than average. At this point I was somewhat surprised but was just waiting for it all to start going downhill.

So they soon decide to check out the gas-powered sauna in the cabin that Ian’s pot-smoking uncle built. This is where I was expecting the movie to falter in some terrible schlock that I can laugh at. Eventually, after the drunk Michael has a fight with Renee he leaves the three who stay and sizzle in the sauna. Moments later, Ian tries to open the door but seems to be unable to. They quickly realize that they are trapped in what is perhaps the world’s most poorly-built sauna as there is no way to shut-off the heat from the inside. What makes 247 °F better than most films of its genres (and how it exceeded my expectations) is how the characters handle the situation. Ian, as established before, is actually quite well-read and seemingly intelligent as he tries to assess their situation without panicking (at least at first.) The two others that are trapped as well, Jenna and Renee, suggest that they break the tiny window, but Ian points out that the cool air that would come in as a result might be detected by the sauna’s thermostat and the heat will continue to rise within the sauna. But he eventually breaks the glass so that they could get more air and so that Ian can try to figure out if they can somehow move whatever’s blocking the sauna door. So what makes this particular movie stand out is that the characters aren’t completely stupid and thus annoying to watch. However, I wondered why Ian didn’t just take the heating rocks out, either with the towels or the wooden spoon, from the wire basket and let them cool, then block the gas valve. Some posters on the Imdb forums even thought of this as well, but maybe when one is in that kind of situation, mentally debilitated by the increasing heat, it’s understandable to be unable to think of a reasonable solution. Regardless, it’s still refreshing to see a movie that doesn’t try to build its suspense and horror from the dumb actions of its characters.

Another thing that works to the film’s advantage is that all of the film’s drama and conflict seems to be the result of human fallibility, rather than from some sinister force, psychosis, or madness. From Ian’s uncertainty as to whether removing the sauna’s thermostat is a good idea or not, to Michael’s accidentally jamming the door, and to Wade for thinking he can build a sauna on his own. Another thing that is also interesting is Ian flipping-out toward the end of the film as opposed to Jenna who becomes the more level-headed one in the moment. One would expect Jenna to be mentally worse than Ian, who was the most rational for a while, in that situation. This sort of reminds me of Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia where the mentally unstable character is better able to rationally deal with incoming doom than her sister, who before was the more “normal” character. But a slight problem does arise out of this, as the audience isn’t surprised (and were probably expecting) Jenna to become the “hero”. This is like in Jack the Reaper where the audience just knows that the girl who was molested by her father would survive. I should also mention that when Ian finally does go nuts it ends up being pretty fucking hilarious, rather than terrifying.

So yeah…not a bad film. Not great by any means as there are some scenes that seem to drag, killing some of the tension, but still, I was sweating so much that it made my seat wet! Get it? Because the movie’s about a sauna. So the “reveal” that Michael was the one that trapped the other characters in a stove, and unintentionally, was supposed to be a surprise. But when Renee and Michael are arguing and Michael stumbles away I already knew that he was the one that was going to cause all the shit, and that he wasn’t expecting to as well because there would be little reason for him to block the door on purpose even though he was pissed-off and disappointed by his girlfriend. Other than that the movie is alright. Did I mention it’s based on true events? That’s pretty crazy ain’t it, except for the minor deviations from reality, like the fact that the sauna was actually electric-powered and that they were able to switch off the heat. But other than that this shit really happened!

247 °F is a decent B-movie that might be worth watching if nothing else is on or if you’re hankering for something suspenseful that isn’t total garbage. But be warned, the characters won’t be the only ones sweating! Wait, I already used that joke. Shit. Um…you’ll have a blistering good time! Yep, that’ll do just fine.

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