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Women in peril, especially those locked away by a maniac are, as I’ve written before, practically a genre all their own with a number of recent films taking the baton and passing it along. So it is with some surprise to come upon a movie that swaps the gender and puts a man in the torture chair so to speak, turning up the heat, quite literally. 200 Degrees is a unique thriller that while unstable and a bit talky, has a genuinely terrifying premise, even if it can’t quite deliver the impact it should.
Waking in a sealed metal kiln, stock broker Ryan Hinds (Eric Balfour) finds himself loosely tied to a folding chair, his mind awash in a fog of a party he was at the night before. His smartphone phone rings and it’s a colleague who claims he’s in a similar bind, screaming in agony as he is apparently cooked alive. Ryan learns soon after that he is headed for the same, goaded and threatened by a disembodied and distorted voice (much like Jigsaw from the Saw franchise) from outside the room who demands Ryan transfer one million dollars or he’ll fire up the burners 3 degrees at a time until the money is paid or Ryan is dead. Problem is, Ryan doesn’t have the money and time is ticking.
Directed by Giorgio Serafini, 200 Degrees is basically a one-man show with Balfour trapped in the single setting for nearly the entirety of the film, and while the premise is not a new one, it requires a certain kind of presence to make it work. These kinds of isolation movies survive only if we become invested in the character, believing they are culpable for their sins and vulnerable enough to bare the weight of their torment while strong enough to see their way through. Balfour has a lot to carry here, and yet even at 90 minutes, there are long moments that stretch what little momentum the story builds. It tries to toy with discovering who and what Ryan is and why he is being tormented, the mystery of his identity really the main reason to stay with this, but the script hampers any real opportunities to connect. There are some strong moments to be sure, but with such limited space, there is not much to stay engaged as Serafini doesn’t exactly create anything imaginative with the setting.
Balfour meanwhile, who has proven himself capable before, does the best he can, sometimes hitting the right notes but also stumbling with dialogue that doesn’t have the punch it needs. He’s not helped by the supporting cast, who are all just bland voices on the phone with nearly no emotional impact, lacking much-needed urgency with flat line reads. That’s not to say there isn’t a decent story buried under the mediocrity though the ending will be a sticking point, a convoluted plot twist that seems to try and turn an unlikable character into a hero, even as the last line attempts to rebuff the thought. A curious exercise in structure and presentation, 200 Degrees is one for tastes, a troubling little thriller with great potential that ends up disappointingly uneventful.
Movie description: 200 Degrees is a 2017 thriller about a man facing an unimaginable fate as he forced to face the worst within himself when he becomes the pawn in a madman's game.
Director(s): Giorgio Serafini
Actor(s): Eric Balfour, LaDon Drummond, Kristin Cochell