September 20, 2011

The Thaw (2009)

"A research expedition to the Arctic discovers that a melting polar ice cap has released a deadly prehistoric parasite."

If you ignore all the boring ecological crap about global warming that seems to get spouted at length every ten minutes, "The Thaw" isn't a bad little horror film about parasitic bugs at all.

Basically, the action takes place at a remote Arctic research station without much snow to be seen anywhere (possibly due to this really being filmed in Canada) and has quite a few similarities to "The Thing" in terms of isolation and the need to quarantine the nasty little beasties.

Unfortunately, most of the budget must have been blown on hiring Val Kilmer for his minimal screen time so, if you are expecting lots of gory nastiness, this is slightly disappointing for truly hardcore horror fans.

The effects, although sparse, are nasty enough for most people especially if you have entomophobia as one of the characters indeed does. Various infestations and burrowing creepy-crawlies are shown in all their low-budget CGI glory so be prepared to sit there scratching at yourself throughout the movie.

There's even a rather nice arm amputation scene which, although still somewhat ridiculous, is a lot more realistic than most that you'd see in a film of this nature.

Of course, there's a little bit of a twist to this involving the motivation of Val Kilmer's professor character whose subplot lingers mostly in the background as the small team of thirty-something graduate "students" vainly fight against the bugs.

Other than that, it's all formulaic stuff with one character being picked off after another in a typical slasher film style. As usual, none of the characters are particularly well developed or likable and seem hellbent on making you hate them even more by being absolutely useless apart from bickering with each other in most of the situations that they get themselves into. There's even the tired old cliché of self-sacrifice which you'll get pretty sick of hearing about or seeing by the end of the movie.

The camerawork is nice and steady, not any of that shakycam crap, and, although the sets give away the budget in a few places, it still looks quite good. The location means that a claustrophobic atmosphere is severely lacking and, it almost goes without saying, that there's a distinct lack of tension throughout.

Considering that "The Thaw" was released straight-to-DVD on the "Ghost House Underground" label, it's one of the better ones and fans of things like "Slither" (2006) or "Ticks" (1999) will enjoy it if they prefer something which takes itself a lot more seriously.

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