Having a film go direct to DVD was once cinema's version of the Scarlet Letter. Not any more. Now, quality features featuring recent Oscar winners and “name” directors often debut directly on Blu-ray, DVD or streaming services.
“247° F” (out Oct 23) recalls a time when a movie deserved to skip theaters – and any working screen, for that matter.
The film follows four friends vacationing at a friendly uncle’s cabin. Uncle Wade is the kind of guy who stocks his home with beer and is willing to run out and get more should you run out.
Nice fella. He’s even got a state of the art sauna for the the quartet to savor. The good times stop rolling when three of the four find themselves locked in the sauna. The temperature is unbearable, the water supply limited and there's no one for miles to rescue them.
Now, a smart thriller like “Frozen” took such a similarly limited premise – three pals abandoned on a ski lift chair – and turned it into a taut 90 minute affair. “247° F” never comes close. The characters are shrill, the tension non-existent and a plethora of possible twists that could have rendered the story exciting never materialize.
We’re left watching pretty people act ugly, while the fourth member of their clan smokes weed and drinks to excess. Mostly alone.
Hard to imagine a more unbearable way to squander a rental or streaming choice.
Fellow new to video release “Werewolf: The Beast Among Us” (Oct. 9) marks Universal’s attempt to bring a lycanthrope franchise out of the wreckage that was Benicio del Toro's "The Wolf Man." It ends up feeling more like a kissing cousin to “Red Riding Hood,” but at least it lines up some genre-friendly elements for our consideration.
A 19th century village is under assault by a werewolf, so the towns folk pay a group of hunters to take down the beast before it kills again.
It's hardly a revolutionary story line. Then again, so much of this "Beast" feels cribbed from past horror movies the simplistic story is almost a plus. We get some B-minus level special effects, tons of dismembered bodies, a bored turn by the talented Stephen Rea and some werewolf traps that Wile E. Coyote would applaud.
The pacing is crisp enough to keep us from nodding off and the ending offers both a ubiquitious vampire cameo and a twist that shows the producers were at least trying. The period garb also impresses given the modest budget constraints.
That's hardly enough to recommend it over most major film releases, but compared to "247° F" this "Werewolf" is the second coming of Lon Chaney, Jr.