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Thaw, The

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // October 6, 2009
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted October 11, 2009 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Written and directed by Mark A. Lewis, who co-wrote with brother Michael W. Lewis, The Thaw, a low budget horror film shot in Canada and financed by Sam Raimi's Ghost House Pictures as part of their Ghost House Underground line, has an interesting premise underneath its fairly typical horror movie exterior.

When the film begins, Dr. David Krupien (Val Kilmer) calls his daughter, Evelyn (Martha MacIsaac), from the remote Arctic research station where he's been conducting various studies It seems that the global warming problem has resulted in a lot of ice and snow in the area melting and because of this he and his team have discovered the almost completely intact corpse of a prehistoric wooly mammoth. Evelyn and three other students hope on the first plane to the Arctic to go help David conduct whatever experiments it is that he needs to conduct but soon find that there are parasites living inside the mammoth's corpse. Of course, these parasites need a new host, and soon the researchers are getting infected. Evelyn decides they have to quarantine themselves, as bringing the parasites back to civilization, where they might be able to get help, would be far to risky.

Very obviously inspired by John Carpenter's The Thing, this is an entertaining enough picture that has an interesting environmental message at its core. While the plot would sound like the picture would be ripe with bug-centric horror, the film isn't as effects heavy as you might guess but horror fans will definitely dig the scenes where the parasitic infections start to take place and of course the results of those infections. It's not a gore fest by any stretch, but there are a few fun creepy moments here that will, pun intended, get under your skin.

As far as the performances go, well, Val Kilmer has definitely done better work in the past. Here he's merely average. Don't expect to see the sort of screen presence or charisma that he brought to bigger budgeted Hollywood fare like Tombstone or The Doors. It's not that he's bad here, but he doesn't really do anything to make the part his own and quite honestly this role could have been played by pretty much any other reasonably talented actor in the same age range and the movie would have been of the same quality. Kilmer really doesn't bring much to the picture. Thankfully, Martha MacIsaac is at least a little more interesting. Her character's increasing paranoia is fun to watch and while it's unlikely you'll be talking about her work here for days to come, she's at least decent enough at delivering the material in a believable fashion. The rest of the cast? Average. Completely and utterly average in every way. Not bad, mind you, just unremarkable, a critique that can be levied against pretty much every aspect of this movie.

The picture zips along at a good pace and the last half of it in particular is exciting enough but you can't help get the feeling that we've been here before and had a better time with it in the past. There's just a few too many similarities to Carpenter's picture (more in terms of the setting, the structure and the attempts at increasing claustrophobia more so than the story itself) and while the film tries to branch out and carve itself a niche, the tension has little impact by the time the end credits his the screen.

It might sound like The Thaw isn't worth seeing, which is not the cast. It's entertaining enough and it does contain a few good scares and a couple of standout moments and neat gore effects. It's a fun movie, a good way to kill ninety minutes, and there is the expected, if somewhat predictable, twist to the ending that wraps things up nicely. The Lewis' have made an enjoyable enough picture with some good cinematography and nice sound design. Just don't expect to really think about it or have it stick with you once you turn it off.

The DVD:

Video:

The Thaw debuts on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks pretty average. The color scheme used in the movie is a bit on the drab side, so expect a lot of browns and grays, colors that don't really pop in HD the way brighter and more intense hues can. Skin tones look decent enough and detail levels are definitely better than standard definition even if they don't match the best transfers the format has to offer. Black levels look a bit flat, probably having something to do with the tinting that's been applied over the picture giving it a blue tone that's pretty much evident from start to finish. Overall the movie looks okay, but not really much better than that though in Lionsgate's defense a lot of this seems to have to do with the way that the picture was shot rather than the authoring job. It won't wow you, but it looks alright.

Sound:

The English language DTS-HD 5.1 track is pretty average. There are spots where you'll notice that the directional effects could have had more punch and possibly better placement as well. For the most part, dialogue is fine and easy enough to understand but there's not much in the way of bass rumble here, and as far as dynamics and ambience go, nothing really stands out and impresses, at least not consistently - to be fair there are a couple of spots later on in the film where the mix picks up a bit. Regardless, while this won't blow you away it does the trick. It's not a bad mix at all, just an unremarkable one. Optional subtitles are provided in English, English SDH and Spanish.

Extras:

The extras aren't anything to write home about here, in fact, the only one of much substance at all is a twelve minute standard definition behind the scenes piece that gives us a look at some of the film's characters in the picture and which gives us some insight into the production by showing off some locations and some of the effects work. It's pretty light, superficial even, but it's there if you want it.

Aside from that, there's a trailer for the feature, a promo spot for other Ghost House Underground titles, and a few trailers for other, unrelated Lionsgate Blu-ray's currently available or coming soon. It's all here in standard definition, except for the unrelated trailers, which are in HD. Menus and chapter stops are also included, of course.

Final Thoughts:

A moderately amusing and generally entertaining movie, The Thaw is fine as a time killer but not a film you're likely to go back to time and time again. Lionsgate's Blu-ray release is equally average, presenting a passable transfer and a decent audio mix alongside some lackluster extras. Far from an essential purchase, the film does have its moments and would make for a perfectly acceptable rental, so let's go with that. Rent it.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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