When any films open with the statement, or uses in the tagline, “based on true events”, “inspired by true events” or something similar it is immediately creating pressure for itself. Even the most historically accurate productions will take some poetic licence either my merging characters or adding lines to the script, but in horror the problem is even greater. In this genre the greatest difficulty is that much of what happens in horror films just doesn’t happen in real life.This brings me to 247*F the new film from writer Lloyd S. Magner and directors Levan Bakhia and Beqa Jguburia.
The basic premise is a simple one. Four good-looking young teenagers are heading to a lakeside lodge for a weekend of sex, drink and, well, that’s probably about it. Cool guy Michael (Michael Copon) has brought along his pretty girlfriend Renee (Christine Ulloa) who in turn has persuaded her shy friend Jenna (Scout Taylor-Compton) to join them. Making up the numbers is single friend Ian (the wonderfully named Travis Van Winkle) who is hoping Jenna proves to be interesting enough as to make the trip worthwhile. Before heading out to an exclusive party in the local town they decide to use the lodge’s in-house sauna. After a few drinks Michael becomes a little over-amorous with Renee who resists his advances and, acting like a truly sulky teenager, Michael storms out of the sauna to cool off. When Renee decides to follow him a few minutes later she discovers the door barred by an unknown force and the three friends are now trapped.
There is an interesting idea hidden deep in 247*F’s steam filled heart but unfortunately the directors find themselves caught somewhere between a thriller and a horror, and what remains is a film that is a little dull and lifeless. All the way through I was expecting something else to happen, a killer to be revealed or a monster to emerge from the hot coals, but nothing actually does. That being the case the film becomes more of a character piece, an observation into how the trapped teens will react to their surroundings and how their relationships break down. The problem with that is that the characters are too shallow and vacuous to be interesting and are just stereotypes you might find in any teen drama. The sauna scenes are drawn out and as you feel little empathy with the characters you begin to grow uninterested as to whether they will survive or not. The direction does nothing to address this problem either and appears stunted and formulaic, cutting between shots of sweaty young people and the supporting cast carrying on with their evening.
Even the introduction of the experienced Tyler Mane as the family friend who’s lodge it is doesn’t add any interest and I can’t help thinking that the whole thing would have been improved if he’d slipped back into Michael Myers mode for just a few minutes.
I looked up the true story 247*F is apparently based on and some friends did actually become trapped in a sauna in exactly the same way they do here. The difference is that they just disconnected the heater and waited for help in the slowly cooling box. Maybe that would have been more interesting.
In the end 247*F just doesn’t know what it wants to be and the characters are not nearly interesting enough to carry the weak plot and script. The actors do their best but are immediately forgettable and what we have in the end is a film that’s just a little boring, and that’s probably the worst thing I could say about a film.