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By Mariko McDonald | December 15, 2008

Two couples venture into the desert for an amateur photo shoot. Swerving to avoid a wolf, their car crashes. A struggle for survival in blazing heat follows. One of the women is recently pregnant making the situation’s strain greater. Unfortunately, none of the characters are interesting or very smart. They’re yuppies-in-making who spout banalities. I never cared about their dull martial problems. The first half-hour could essentially be lopped off since there’s nothing complicated about the set-up.

However, there are maybe four scenes of good tension. Lacey Chabert and Tygh Runyan have a couple arresting moments. There’s a deliberately very funny survival technique near the end. But no consistent presence of mind comes from the script. A logical cause-and-effect should mine the situation’s possibilities. For instance, MINOR SPOILER— they kill a rattlesnake and drink its blood. But why don’t they eat it? They leave it on the ground instead.—END SPOILER. Wringing all the potential of the setting is especially important since there are no supernatural elements or other threats. Hillbilly cannibals do not appear.

Jeffery Lando’s direction is neither imaginative nor dynamic. Lando’s cinematography, however, is quite handsome and polished. Based on this work, maybe he should leave the director’s chair to others.

Often when watching crummy thrillers or horror movies I’ll ponder what it would be like if the dull teens or young adults were actually interesting with strong personalities. For example, drop Werner Herzog, Barack Obama, Madonna, and Hillary Clinton into the middle of a scorching desert and see what happens. Bickering and conflicts take on whole new dimensions. The Point: just because there’s gore or suspense doesn’t mean compelling characters should be thrown out the window.

“Thirst” cooks like a turtle baking in the sun. It never boils and only just rises above lukewarm, making okay 3am cable TV filler.

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