247°F is a horror film about a group of twenty-something’s who find themselves locked in a sauna as it creeps towards the titular 247°, which we’re told is the temperature that causes death. (This, believe it or not, was a Lisa pick. Have I mentioned I love that lady?) I should say it’s billed as a horror film, but I’d consider it more of a thriller, and then only nominally. There are no real scares here, and the characters are so thinly constructed it’s hard to pick someone to root for – although the blonde guy gets my vote, simply by being the most recognizably adult of the bunch. One thing though: if you’re locked in a sauna that’s approaching 200°shouldn’t there be, oh, I don’t know, a lot of sweat? Apparently the production couldn’t afford more than the occasional sprits from a water bottle during pivotal scenes. Grade: C-
I began to worry about Barricade when I popped in the DVD and was treated to five minutes of WWE wrestling previews. Greeeeaaaat – a movie produced by a wrestling outfit; stand by Oscar committee. Putting that bad omen aside, I gave the movie an honest shot. The movie stars Eric McCormack (Will of Will and Grace) as a recent widower who takes his two young children to an isolated winter cabin to celebrate Christmas. Something happens – be it supernatural, man-made, or otherwise – and the family finds themselves frantically barricading themselves in for their very survival. I found the plot woefully transparent yet orchestrated sloppily, leading to confusion (and boredom) for most of the movie’s duration. I wasn’t keen on this one. Grade: D+
I had the opposite experience with the charming Safety Not Guaranteed. A man posts a classified ad looking for a companion to travel back in time with him, and a local magazine jumps on the chance to do a feature on the guy. Aubrey Plaza plays the magazine intern saddled with the task of landing the time travel gig, but it’s not long before she begins to think of the purported time traveler as more than just an interesting subject for an article. This movie is sweet, quirky, and overall a joy to watch. We greatly enjoyed it. Grade: A
Nearly as impressive was Sound of My Voice. Maggie is an enigmatic young woman, purportedly from the future, who has began to amass a small cult following in the basement of a local home. A young couple is determined to expose the dangers of the cult, but when they infiltrate the group they find themselves slowly corrupted by Maggie’s influence. Is Maggie a true danger? Is she a charlatan, or could she be just what she says she is – a prophet from decades down the road? This is a crisp, smartly done film that is weakened by an ambiguous/’twist’ ending I could have done without. Even so, I grade this a solid A/A-
Spoiler alert: Was the child really Maggie’s Mom? Is that proof she’s from the future? I vote no – the child is never seen in the company of her mother, and I’d wager that Maggie is in fact the child’s mother, not vice versa. I am a little confused about the Justice agent’s odd behavior in the hotel room, leading me to think she’s not who she says she is, but the police presence at the end appears to back up her story.