We all have certain plot structures that we have a soft spot for and my personal kryptonite may just be isolationist settings. Doesn't really matter where it is, but stick a group of people in just one location and you're playing right to my palette. Obviously Open Water is not the first film to root a few actors helplessly in one locale, but in terms of recent visibility it is this generation's benchmark for the niche. So while it may be the main point of comparison for plots of this ilk, it's still not the finest example of the formula around. I for one am a huge fan of Black Water, which can easily be described as "Open Water, but with crocodiles". And now joining that undiscovered gem is Thirst, a straight-to-video film that can succinctly be pitched as, well, "Open Water in the desert".

Four friends head off into the desert for a photoshoot: Atheria, the aspiring model (Mercedes McNab), Tyson, her photographer boyfriend (Brandon Quinn), Noelle, the bookish best friend (Lacey Chabert), and Noelle's kind of crappy husband, Bryan (Tygh Runyan). Naturally the shoot goes off without a hitch, but the quartet have a hard time getting out of the desert when their car takes a nosedive off road. So they're stuck in the middle of nowhere with no expectation of rescue. Food isn't too much of a problem at first, but water...that's what will kill you.
Obviously it's not the most inventive set up around, but Thirst does have a few tricks up its sleeve to be worthwhile to people who may not even share my fondness for Get Me Out Of Here films. The first is its cast, who are all willing to get down and dirty when director Jeffery Scott Lando calls for it. Sure, each role is certainly typecast - Mercedes McNab is still the ditzy blond, Lacey Chabert is the perpetual girl next door, and Brandon Quinn is once again struggling with being a werewolf (kidding, I just wanted to give a shout out to Big Wolf on Campus) - but as the film progresses most of the actors are required to give it a bit more effort than is typically expected from them. In some cases, it's a pleasant surprise (McNab, for example, can milk the sympathy in all the right spots); in others, not so much (Tygh Runyan never really does anything to stand out).

The other win comes by way of a script that delivers a few key jolts of bloody energy that keeps the film on its toes during otherwise slow stretches. In particular, one scene involving a character's head wound is properly squirmy to watch. Following that are a small handful of moments involving attempts to find water that help usher along the foursome toward making mistake after mistake. Plus it's going an ending worth talking about. Some will laugh, others will dig it, either way they'll certainly be talking about it.

As far as Get Me Out of Here films go, Thirst is somewhere between Open Water and Black Water (why couldn't they have just called it No Water?); the characters are still pretty vanilla, but they're also not as nagging as the floating twosome at the core of the former. At the same time, the movie isn't even in the ballpark when it comes to ratcheting up the tension the way Black Water does. But even with its more mediocre qualities, it's still a sturdy little survival film that does just enough right to keep your attention on tap throughout.
categories Reviews, Horror