The Thaw (Mark A. Lewis, 2009)
Here's something I'm not sure I ever thought I'd see: a movie that shows up on the Chiller network that I hadn't heard about before the Chiller network started advertising it that actually doesn't suck. Don't get me wrong, it's a fur piece from great, but considering this is the station that brought us such unbearable crap as Zombie Town, this isn't a step in the right direction, it's a quantum leap.
In any case, the plot: there's a bunch of scientists and their helpers hanging out in the Arctic Circle headed up by Dr. Kruipen (Val Kilmer), a noted climate scientist and former crazy activist. He's up there with his assistant Jane (Anne Marie DeLuise, recently of the Black Christmas remake), their handyman Ed (Horsemen's John Callender), and their native guide-type person Nuti (Sleep Murder's Lamech Kadloo). They're in the midst of tracking a polar bear when they stumble upon a woolly mammoth encased in ice. Fast-forward two months and three university students are chosen to go up to the site and help them out with their research. They are Atom Galen (Smallville's Aaron Ashmore), Federico Fulce (A History of Violence's Kyle Schmid), and Ling Chen (Dim Sum Funeral's Steph Song, the Sexiest Woman in the World, according to FHM a few years back). There's some history between Fulce and Chen, but we don't know quite what until later in the movie. Also coming with them is Evelyn (Superbad's Martha MacIsaac), Kruipen's daughter, who was expressly warned to stay away but has a thing for not listening to her dad, and the helicopter pilot taking them out to the site, Bart (Hot Tub Time Machine's Viv Leacock).
First off: you will hear, in other reviews, all sorts of silliness about how, for a film that's supposed to be set above the Arctic Circle, there's very little snow and no one's breath plumes. That can't be realistic, right? Well, the movie was shot on location. You tell me, bub. Then there's Val Kilmer's performance. Which was bad, true, but compared to some of his other recent flicks (Moscow Zero, Alexander, MacGruber) it wasn't all that awful. What happened to the Val Kilmer who made Real Genius and Tombstone (and was great as recently as Wonderland)? I don't know, but you won't find him in any Val Kilmer movies from the past six years. And okay, William B. Davis is in the movie for about ten seconds. I'll give you that one. And the movie has set off all kinds of crazed global warming fanatics on both sides of the fence, which is irritating. So if I were you I'd ignore the global warming stuff, which isn't nearly as heavy-handed as one would expect given the debates that have been raging since the movie was released, and just take it as a bad horror flick. In which case, it's fun, the acting is at least average, and it has actual, honest-to-god bugs, or CGI good enough that I couldn't tell the difference (as opposed to every Sci-Fi Channel killer-bug movie from the past five years). Sure, there are plot holes and general low-buget horror-movie silliness. If you're expecting a Michael Bay movie, go elsehwere. For those of us who appreciate bad horror movies, this is no Lockout, but it has a lot more to offer than most. (And did no one but me catch that the final scene--and no, this isn't a spoiler, given the opening montage--was a straight-up homage to Cabin Fever? I thought that was hilarious...) ***