Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Thaw

A disclaimer before we begin: I had a very minor surgical procedure yesterday, and watched this movie after taking Vicodin. There exists the possibility that I had an unusually good time watching the The Thaw due to the powerful medication. Yesterday, I took Vicodin from 3PM to midnight, and the world seemed happy and bright. Today, I’ve had two aspirin and would gladly blow up the planet and everyone on it. Have a great day!

A group of ecologists led by the prominent Dr. David Kruipen (Val Kilmer) are studying the effects of global warming on polar bears in the Canadian Arctic, when they make a sensational find. They drug a bear chewing on something exposed by melting ice, and discover an intact specimen of a wooly mammoth. Things go awry, however, since the late mammoth is infested with a prehistoric parasite, bug-like creatures (the original title of the movie was Bed Bugs, which is a terrible title) that lay eggs in other animals (including us), and sicken and kill the host. Pretty soon the numbers of the original party are seriously depleted. Fortunately, body count reinforcement arrives in the form of a group of students who walk blindly into the situation. Soon, they are struggling not to become infested, and grappling with a dilemma: Should they try to get rescued and risk spreading the contagion, or die to keep it contained? They are not unanimous on this subject.

The biggest problem with the movie is that, with the exception of Atom Galen (Aaron Ashmore), none of the characters are remotely likeable, and one, Federico Fulce (Kyle Schmid), is so annoying you want to strangle him. When things start to go south, we learn that Fulce has a phobia about bugs (meaning he is in exactly the wrong place at the wrong time) and goes to pieces under any stress. At the outset, he grabs the only gun and proclaims himself in charge. Despite demonstrating his willingness to shoot the others at the slightest bit of stress, no one ever seizes any of the easy opportunities to disarm him. It seems a given that you wouldn’t want the guy who is cracking up to be the only one armed. Kruipen’s daughter Evelyn (Martha MacIsaac) isn’t that bad, although she spends the first half of the movie being petulant.

Despite the disagreeable characters, and the tendency to get a little preachy at times, this isn’t a bad movie at all. The northern tundra makes a nice backdrop for the action, and there is no one who is a completely obvious survivor, so it keeps you guessing.

This is one of the four new releases from Ghost House Underground, the production company founded by Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert. Based on appearances the new releases seem to be promising, and I’ll soon know for myself, as I picked up the whole set.

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