Mini Reviews (November 2014)
247°F, Dracula Untold
247°F (November 3/14)
247°F follows three friends (Scout Taylor-Compton's Jenna, Christina Ulloa's Renee, and Travis Van Winkle's Ian) as they find themselves trapped in a working sauna, with the movie detailing the characters' subsequent efforts to escape from their increasingly hot and deadly prison. It's a unique premise that's employed to erratic yet watchable effect by directors Levan Bakhia and Beqa Jguburia, with the movie, which admittedly never approaches the heights achieved by thematically-similar efforts like Open Water and Frozen, generally exploiting its high-concept setup to an effective degree (ie the various elements one might've expected, like certain characters slowly losing their minds, are included by the filmmakers). There is, as a result, little doubt that 247°F's rather generic atmosphere is relatively easy to overlook, although it's equally clear that the movie's meandering narrative grows more and more problematic as time progresses. (It is, for example, difficult to derive much enjoyment out of Bakhia and Jguburia's ongoing emphasis on a characters' outside-the-sauna exploits.) And while there's a palpable sense of escalation here, 247°F suffers from a lack of dread and tension that ultimately does diminish the impact of its final stretch - which, in the end, confirms the movie's place as a passable yet underwhelming confinement thriller.
Dracula Untold offers up a spin on Bram Stoker's venerable (yet overrated) novel and follows Luke Evans' Vlad as he purposefully sets out to become a vampire to protect his family, with the narrative detailing Vlad's eventual battle against an entire army of Turks (led by Dominic Cooper's Mehmed). It's fairly surprising to note that Dracula Untold gets off to a rather watchable start, as the movie boasts a stylish opening half hour that effectively exploits its promising setup. Evans' compelling turn as the central character goes a long way towards perpetuating the intriguing atmosphere, while filmmaker Gary Shore has peppered the proceedings with a handful of unexpectedly engrossing sequences (eg Vlad spontaneously decides to fight back rather than acquiesce). It's equally clear, however, that Dracula Untold's grip on the viewer slowly-but-surely fades as it progresses into its less-than-captivating midsection, with the increasingly uninvolving atmosphere compounded by Shore's growing emphasis on battle sequences of a decidedly subpar nature (ie such moments are drained of their excitement by Shore's reliance on quick editing and computer-generated effects). There is, as a result, little doubt that the movie's climactic stretch is unable to pack the visceral, engrossing punch that Shore has obviously intended, and it is, in the end, impossible label Dracula Untold as anything more than another misguided contemporary update of a classic character.