For about three years there in the late oughts around the time Arthur C. Clarke said that Roy Scheider was supposed to use a monolith to turn Jupiter into a second sun, thus saving us from a nuclear war with the Soviets (whoops), Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert (they’re still around but Roy isn’t), launched a direct-to-physical media horror line called Ghost House Underground for lower-budget flicks to give lesser-known directors a shot.
There were about a dozen or thereabouts flicks that didn’t get nearly the number of eyeballs on em as the two guys known for a little franchise called the Evil Dead woulda liked, nor did the imprint become a mass launching pad for the next generation of legendary horror flick directors, but hopefully we can rectify the lack of eyeballs part of the equation by checking out a few of these in the Screening Room.
I do sometimes get emails asking me how the heck the movies get picked to be reviewed and the criteria/priority goes like this:
1. Flicks filmmakers send in to Joe Bob that he wants me to look at.
2. Flicks filmmakers send in to me to look at.
3. Whatever I feel like reviewing.
Caveat Uno: The flick can’t be already have been reviewed by Joe Bob. (I did this once and was a half star meaner to this one killer snake flick.)
Caveat Two-o: It can’t be a newer film because Joe Bob might review it on Patreon at some point. He gets dibs. So if you want to know what I thought about Scream 6, you’ll have to email me.
Caveat Three-o: It can’t be a flick that’s going to be on the show in the future that I know of.
And yes, people can email in with recommendations, but be warned that I even had one guy who said one of my reviews was “Subliterate idiocy.” If I get ambitious enough to start compiling the four(!) years’ worth of reviews I’ve done for JB’s site into something resembling a book, you can bet that the comment, allegedly attributable to a Wal-Mart cashier in Texas (according to his job description on social media) it will be on the cover. I strive for nothing less.
Speaking of sick burns, we just had the first day of spring and since flowers keep flowering and polluters keep polluting, it seemed more than appropriate to check out the 2009 flick The Thaw.
Now, let’s get it right out there that basically as far as winter-themed horror flicks go, there’s John Carpenter’s version of The Thing and then you have everything else. That flick didn’t just wreck the curve, it grabbed a lit stick of dynamite, put on its floppy cowboy hat, did a barrel roll, and then chucked the dynamite at that curve, exploding it for all winter horror flicks before and since. People might come at me slightly with The Shining, but the whole flick isn’t set in the winter, therefore it doesn’t quite compare if you’re going by tundra content.
The Thaw does deal with a polar research team, hence the comparison is inevitable, but, hey let’s not get caught in that icy trap, especially since, instead of the desolate frozen tundra, we get the desolate unfrozen tundra here. And let’s also pay respect to Val Kilmer, who plays David Kruipen, the head research environmental activist professor guy, who ruminates about the meaning of sacrifice and found the time to be the pivotal point in a genre flick at this stage of his career.
Director Mark A. Lewis is starting us off in medias res, which is Latin for “I put the DVD in and then it played,” with a college girl with a nasty divot about an inch and a half above her left eyebrow that came from what they think is a tick stuck in her head but they’re too slow to yank it out with the tweezers they have, so it crawls back in there where presumably it’ll start displacing her cerebrum when it starts reproducing inside her skull.
Then there’s a whole video montage of folks going on about “global warming being a hoax,” and “it’s a sign from God,” and “the world is overpopulated” and “folks are dying from an unexplained bioterror contagion” while we see glaciers collapsing, a bunch of pollution belching into the sky thanks to traffic gridlock and it all gets interspersed with some visuals of weird critters scuttling along.
Yeah, that part hit a bit close to home these days with that whole pandemic thing that’s happened.
So in the next scene, The Thaw reveals six minutes in that it’s gonna be another one of those flicks where the chronology gets all jumpy. So the flick really starts well after all the action in the story starts and so the majority of the movie’s going to be about getting back to where the flick started. We can tell that because now it’s way before the girl got her forehead divot from whatever’s burrowing in her skull and Professor Val’s out there in a not-so-polar-looking region with three other people tranquilizing an emaciated polar bear that’s munching on some unfrozen detritus it found in the one visible snow patch.
The Native guide, meanwhile, gets all excited because the bear was eating a recently thawed wooly mammoth carcass. The bear dies two days later, so 20,000-year-old dead hairy pachyderm didn’t agree with it from a gastrointestinal standpoint and that brain-eating bug from the first scene was dormant inside the mammoth and the bear ate it, but now the bugs have awakened and chew their way out of the dead bear.
Then there’s a location jump to a college lecture hall where they’re watching a video of Kruipen talking about the effects of global warming on the ecosystem and three lucky students are chosen to go hang with him at Research Lab Central to check out the polar bears as well. Val calls his daughter, Evelyn (Martha MacIsaac), to try to get her to get up there, but then he changes his mind, but then she changes her mind after saying no and wants to go up there anyway and forces the chopper pilot to bring her with the three students.
(It’s a pretty complicated way of getting five more potential victims/parasite hosts up to the research base).
The fresh meat consisting of a guy named Atom and couple Ling and Freddie along with Evelyn and Bart the pilot get to the research base, find the going-rancid polar bear corpse and find the professor’s ill assistant, who trashes the chopper they flew in on, barfs up a bunch of black stuff and dies.
Then the flick is kind of a cross between Outbreak, Cabin Fever and An Inconvenient Truth with more amputations and references to bloody whangdoodles and a guy falls off a helicopter for good measure.
Best Summarization of a Testy Father-Daughter Relationship: When Evelyn thinks she’s found her dad’s corpse, she yells “He’s gone and I still hate him!
Best Sequence in Which Various Bodily Fluids Advance the Plot: Freddie (Kyle Schmid) has a hard time peeing and confronts Ling, whom he aardvarked minutes earlier. Ling (Steph Song), who’s been infected by the parasite bug, barfs. This leads to the immortal line by Fred later on: “She’s going to blow the whistle on me and that means I’m going to die with these f—–g bugs in my dick!”
Best DIY Surgery Scene: When chopper pilot Bart (Viv Leacock) grabs a butcher knife and tries to carve the parasite larvae from his arm.
Best Example of not Thinking Things Through: After a second more-successful DIY surgery involving multiple hacks to Bart’s arm with a meat cleaver, the college kids forget that they need to cauterize the wound so the patient almost bleeds out. Doesn’t anybody remember the lessons learned from Romero’s Day of the Dead?
Three and a half stars.
The Thaw is available to stream on TubiTV, The Roku Channel, Plex and Freevee as well as other places and the physical media is out there as well.
Check it out!