Last year, in the spirit of Halloween, I treated myself to John Carpenter’s The Thing — a 1982 horror film that I’d never seen but heard plenty about. Without giving too much of the plot away, it involved a some scientists, a cold remote base, an infectious alien creature, and a fiery climactic explosion.
If I had to tell you the plot of The Thaw, I would offer almost the exact same list of ingredients. The only difference is that while The Thing had plenty of scares and tense moments, The Thaw only manages a lukewarm response. As a kind of tie-in with modern day events, instead of an alien spaceship, it’s global warming that introduces the bad guy. DVDTOWN provides the best plot summary saying,
Val Kilmer stars as a famous environmental advocate, Dr. David Kruipen, who discovers the real horror of global warming when he finds the carcass of a woolly mammoth in the polar ice that also contains a prehistoric parasite. Soon, a team of four students lands on a remote Arctic station to find Dr. Kruipen. Through a series of events, students find themselves trapped in this station trying to escape the prehistoric parasite. One by one, the parasite finds a host in this group. Running out of time, the students must find a way to escape this situation.
While a horror film, The Thaw also addresses eco-terrorism as a way of forcing humanity to live in harmony with the planet. As Derrick Jensen made clear in his “Environmentalist” version of Star Wars, there are some who believe a passive movement will in the end do nothing to change what needs to be changed. Unfortunately, the argument for this option presented in The Thaw — especially with one character — is rather weak.
Anyways, for those that hate bugs, there are definitely some squeamish moments — but nothing that will make you jump too high. Probably the best tension came from one character’s arm needing to be hacked off to prevent the infection from spreading. It rather reminded me of the “finger scene” from Tarantino’s Four Rooms.
There’s also something to say for the idea of some awful parasite being exposed as the ice sheets recede. We often talk about such things happening with the destruction of the Rainforests, but it’s interesting to imagine there might be something out there trapped and dormant and, well, deadly to the human race.
Also, I’m now fairly certain that Val Kilmer is pissed off at the world. His last two movies (see The Chaos Theory) have both focused on global warming — and him personally trying to kill people to prove a point related to it. The sale of his beloved eco-ranch isn’t going to help things either.
In conclusion, The Thaw brings an interesting concept to the table — but never really succeeds in making you too worried about it. There are some minor scares and relatively decent acting — but it’s all rather predictable. I’d recommend a weekend rental — but for my money, The Thing, is a better alternative.