If the idea of being trapped inside a sweltering hot sauna for hours without any means of escape sounds like a horrific thought, then you may enjoy '247°F.' Of the thousands of ways to die, this seems like the furthest from anyone's imagination of likely possibilities, a kooky ridiculous thought than could only ever happen in the next 'Final Destination' installment. And still, it's a pretty awful way to go. The exit door is right there, but it won't budge while you sweat profusely and slowly dehydrate until finally collapsing and eventually dying from a heatstroke. Making matters worse is suddenly discovering you're a bit of a claustrophobe, and the heat only makes the small room feel even smaller and more difficult to breathe.
If the idea of sitting through such a movie for 90 minutes is a horrific thought in and of itself, then you might find '247°F' a pleasant surprise. It's sounds like a really bizarre, convoluted premise for a horror thriller, and for the most part, it kind of is. Yet, the low-budget movie catches you off-guard and amazes with how effective the plot can be. Newcomers Levan Bakhia and Beqa Jguburia pace the narrative into a believable scenario of drunken stupidity and carelessness as three friends find themselves dying for a cold beverage. Only about 60 minutes of the film is actually spent inside the sauna, which the characters originally set to a consistent 185°. The filmmakers spend the rest of the time setting up a series of circumstances that eventually lead to the oven-like deathtrap.
The script, which Bakhia co-wrote with two other newcomers Beqa Oniani and Lloyd S. Wagner, allows for the characters to be fleshed out properly, especially Jenna (Scout Taylor-Compton of Rob Zombie's 'Halloween' fame). She is still copping with a car accident from three years earlier which took the life of her fiancé, and acting the nervous Nellie about pretty much everything fun. Taylor-Compton isn't particularly memorable in the role, but there really isn't much demanded of her either. Her job is simply to gain our sympathy and root for her growth when faced with a nightmarish situation. In that respect, she does as prescribed despite having to do nothing more than constantly look worried and drip buckets of sweat while in her underwear until that moment when she predictably takes command.
The reason she's even in the steam room to begin with is her best friend Renee (Christina Ulloa) encouraging her to get out more and enjoy life. Part of the plan is spending a weekend in a lakeside cabin with Renee's boyfriend, the annoyingly immature and reckless jerk that becomes the catalyst to the whole tragedy Michael (Michael Copon). The short getaway vacation is thanks to that guy's best friend Ian (Travis Van Winkle), who's intelligent, respectful and apparently some kind of hopeful match for Jenna. A bit of credit goes to the filmmakers for not rushing into things and quickly moving into all the mayhem. Instead, viewers are shown some of the dynamics of the friendship, building the tension around them and revealing not all is as hunky-dory as previously thought.
The setup could be seen as taking a bit long at getting to the point — admittedly, the conversations do feel a tad dull — but it's to a great effect. We're given a chance to know the characters and their personalities, much of the attention on Jenna, Renee and Ian. Michael is a one-dimensional prick, so we couldn't care less if there's actually more to him. Knowing the other three pays off because after spending hours in the endless heat, their true colors under distress come to the surface and turn into challenges of their own. I also got a kick out of seeing the filmmakers use a fireworks show as the reason no one ever thinks to check the sauna for the missing trio. Walking into this low-budget flick, my thoughts were on the premise being a stupid idea for a movie, but in the end, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it cooks up some suspense.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Anchor Bay Entertainment brings '247°F' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD25 disc inside a blue, eco-vortex keepcase. After a few skippable trailers, viewers are taken to a standard main menu with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
The low-budget thriller turns up the heat with a top-notch, highly-detailed AVC-encoded transfer. Taken directly from an HD source, thanks to the Red One camera system, the 2.40:1 picture displays sharply-defined lines in the surrounding foliage, the exterior of the cabin and the inside of sauna deathtrap. Facial complexions are revealing with natural flesh tones. Although the video can look a bit digitized at times with a few negligible hot spots, it maintains excellent clarity with crisp, comfortably bright contrast, and primaries are bold from beginning to end. Black levels are equally strong and stable with outstanding detailing within the shadows although the sequences inside the sauna without lights do tend to show a good deal of crush.
The real surprise from this movie comes via a very active and enjoyable Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, which does excellent at maintaining viewer interest. Back speakers offer lots of unexpected atmospherics and other carefully placed discrete effects, like voices in another room, fireworks exploding overhead or the subtle sounds of wildlife in the distance. Beqa Jguburia's musical score also spreads into the surrounds flawlessly, creating a satisfying soundfield. Dynamic range is very refined and broad with appreciable acoustical details and separation. Low bass can be quite powerful in a few scenes and surprisingly extensive in others. Dialogue is well-prioritized and cleanly delivered in the center, making this lossless mix a real highlight of the package.
Only two features are offered for this home video release.
As ridiculous as the idea of a horror thriller set in a sauna may sound, first-time filmmakers Levan Bakhia and Beqa Jguburia actually do a respectable job with it. With a bit of suspense and unfortunate coincidences, Scout Taylor-Compton stars in a movie that basically tests the will and strengths of three unlucky souls. The Blu-ray arrives with an excellent and surprisingly enjoyable audio and video presentation. Special features are not only lacking but also forgettable, making the overall package one which only genre fans will think worth taking a risk on. Others may want to give it a rent first.