The Thaw (2009 movie) review…

The Thaw (2009 movie) review after the break…

The Thaw (2009 movie) review…

A group of college students lands at a remote Northern research outpost for what they thought would be ecological research but it turns out to become a fight for survival against a mysterious something that not only threatens their lives but the entire planet as well. That’s the premise of “The Thaw,” a 2009 movie that’s the Great White North’s answer to “Cabin Fever.”

Although Val Kilmer headlines “The Thaw” as a prominent and vocal ecological researcher, he’s one of those ‘bookend’ actors – He’s featured at the beginning, featured at the end but virtually absent in the middle. As a result, the movie is actually starred by a group of relative unknown young actors, portraying college students who are assigned intern duties at the northern outpost. An older helicopter pilot is added to round out the crew who lands at the curiously deserted outpost and soon discovers that they’re not alone and it’s probably not for a good reason.

It’s hard not to review “The Thaw” without spoiling it – While it has enough suspense and surprises for an hour-long “Outer Limits” episode (Had someone informed me that it was, I wouldn’t have been surprised in the slightest), it fails to live up it’s 90 minute runtime. Right on the cover, “The Thaw” spoils one of it’s two main plot points – That the mysterious something is in the form of bugs… In this case, prehistoric bugs that are thawing out thanks to climate change. The bugs act as a physical and icky representation of a quick-acting virus, literally spreading through the body until the bugs are coming out of the human body. Ick. The second main plot point isn’t extremely hard to figure out – That our bookend star, Val Kilmer, has purposely infected himself with these bugs so that they can spread and teach the world a lesson about overpopulation and climate change.

When watching a movie such as these types, being in suspense is important. Once a plot point is revealed, most seasoned viewers will know what to expect next. There are few surprises awaiting the viewer after the plot points are revealed – The students, ill-prepared to face moral and mortal dilemmas, fumble and bumble their way through the mortifying developments of watching their numbers dwindle via bug infestation. What to do with the infected? Isolate them? Kill them? Chop off the infected limb in the hopes of containing the infection?
With only two major plot points to the movie, there just isn’t much to captivate the viewer. Perhaps the film could have been re-cut to keep the mystery as to what happened to the initial research crew – Even their brief appearance in the beginning deflates a lot of the suspense: Something is clearly wrong with them but what? Once we know that something is wrong, it deflates a bit of the mystery. Why not just have the students arrive and keep them (and us) in the dark? Let them find the research crew camp themselves instead of having the sick woman come back and damage the helicopter. Why not have the helicopter fly away, thinking everything is OK?

Without a constant sense of mystery, the movie deflates rather rapidly into the usual stereotypes – There’s the man who’s infected and aggressively controls the rest of the camp, there’s the “good couple” and “the couple who had sex and will, therefore, meet a grisly fate,” there’s the brilliant scientist who’s too brilliant to see the proverbial forest from the trees… Yawn. While the group performs some common sense activities (quarantining a sick person, for example), does anyone ever bother with sleeping outside? Driving the ATV to the nearest anywhere (beside the camp)?

In the end, there simply isn’t enough plot for the running time. Once people know about the bugs, it’s a slow plod to see who it is who reaches the final scenes (not hard to figure out – This isn’t “The Thing” where the infection hides itself) and, once there, the final plot point of the researcher (loop hole: How does one survive a direct rifle shot without professional medical help and live well enough to walk upright hours later to walk into a helicopter?) who purposely wants to unleash the bugs onto the world happens too late in the film to develop much story around it. That leaves a sagging middle with nothing much to do but to watch predictable people die in predictable ways. “The Thaw” has a nice premise that is ruined by too simplistic a plot and too long a run time… And that’s what bugs me about it.

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